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From a tainting by Edmund Morris, 





Edited with Introduction by 




Copyright, Canada, 1905,. 
by the Department 
of Indian Affairs 


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THERE are at the present time several old 
Indians who believe that their forefathers, 
many years ago, came to this from some 
other continent; that they crossed a large 
body of water, landing at several different 
islands on their voyage; that they travelled 
towards the rising sun, and were stopped 
in their journey by unfriendly tribes. 
These hostile Indians forced them to 
settle upon the prairies, where they have 
dwelt for hundreds of years. A different 
language was spoken by their forefathers, 
and the country they came from was 
warmer than this part of the world. 

They insist that the Great Spirit had 
guided them to this land, and had given it 
to them, with all its vast expanses teeming 
with game, from which they derived their 
sustenance. While they were the sole in- 


habitants of these territories they were 
wealthy; they had everything they could 
desire for their happiness, and they were 
proud of being what they were the chil- 
dren of Kichie Manitou. When the white 
men came misfortunes came with them. 

These ideas are mere shadows of dreams, 
the remnants of legends referring to migra- 
tions which are recent compared with the 
incalculable age of the race. The earliest 
explorers found established languages, 
tribes firmly fixed in their traditional terri- 
tories, formalized manners and habits. But 
ages upon ages had passed in which the 
form of the continent had changed, and 
again changed, before these peoples had 
become differentiated. Where was the 
cradle of the race; drifting from what 
plateau or valley came the progenitors of 
the tribes who were in possession when the 
Northmen and Columbus first touched the 
shore? The answer to the question takes 
the form of conjecture and suggestion, but 
investigation of this interesting ethnologi- 
cal problem has proceeded so far that all 
the unscientific theories of the last hundred 


years have been abandoned and a working 
hypothesis established which may be varied, 
modified or strengthened, but which, a hun- 
dred years from this, may have been firmly 
established by evidence which is not now 
available. The theory that they were the 
descendants of the " ten lost tribes " of 
Israel has had its day, and that which 
traces their coming to an easterly migration 
by way of Behring Straits or the Aleutian 
Islands is slowly passing. 

As these preliminary words are only in- 
tended to serve the purpose of connecting 
the Indian of to-day with some past, even 
the indefinite and speculative, instead of 
leaving him without any affiliation with 
the general human stock, it will not be 
advisable to give any extended argument 
cogent to the theory of such affiliation, but 
simply to state the theory itself. 

The explanation which gains force from 
geological and other scientific evidence is 
that the inhabitants of this continent came 
from Europe by a westerly migration across 
a huge land bridge which gave continuous 
communication in an equable climate by 


way of Iceland and Greenland. The sub- 
sidence of this plateau, which now forms 
the shallow bottom of the North Atlantic, 
cut off the people of our continent from 
other portions of the world, and left them to 
develop amid the circumstances and envir- 
onment which evolved during the succeeding 

Anyone more than superficially interested 
in this fascinating subject may begin his 
reading with the last chapter of Frederick 
S. Dellenbaugh's " The North Americans 
of Yesterday." He may then be tempted to 
read Dr. David G. Brinton's " The Amer- 
ican Race," where he will find a condensed 
but exhaustive treatment of the matter. 

There is no doubt that the native inhabi- 
tants of North America are of one race, 
with strongly marked characteristics, but 
with many linguistic variations and other 
less important tribal distinctions arising 
from environment. Chief among the lin- 
guistic stocks is the Algonquin, which ex- 
tends over a larger area than any other. 
From as far north as the Peace River and 
the Churchill River to North Carolina, and 


from the Atlantic coast to the Rocky 
Mountains, the tribes of this great division 
possessed the land. They now number 
about ninety-five thousand, and the main 
tribal divisions are as follows: Abenakis, 
Algonquin, Blackfoot, Cree, Mississauga, 
Micniac, O jib way and Ottawa. 

The four tribes inhabiting the Provinces 
of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, which are 
described in the succeeding chapters, are 
the Crees, Saulteaux (a name given to the 
O jib ways by the early French explorers, 
who first found them at Sault Ste. Marie), 
Assiniboines and Sioux. Of these four 
tribes the Crees and Assiniboines were the 
first inhabitants of the provinces. 

The Crees are to be found from the shores 
of Hudson Bay to the foot of the Rocky 
Mountains, and as far north as the Beaver 
River, and even farther north. They claim 
that they were the original owners of the 
vast prairies of the western provinces, and 
that eventually the tribe was joined by the 
Assiniboines, who are a branch of the 
Dakota stock. 

The Sioux, another branch of the 


Dakota stock, who now form part of our 
Indian population, are refugees from south 
of the international boundary. These In- 
dians in times long past were the sworn 
enemies of the Crees and Saulteaux, and 
would follow them, especially the former, 
into their own territory often as far north 
as the Saskatchewan River. In later years 
they came into 'Canada, fleeing from justice, 
taking refuge in Manitoba and Saskatch- 
ewan. They were responsible for many out- 
rages upon the early pioneers in Minnesota 
and Dakota, but have been peaceable and 
law-abiding since they became wards of the 
Dominion. They come of the once powerful 
Dakota stock, and are fine specimens of 
the Indian race. 

The O jib ways, another large branch of 
the great Algonquin stock, occupy the vast 
area between Hudson Bay and James Bay 
on the north and Lakes Superior and 
Huron on the south. 

It seemed necessary to write these few 
words upon the probable origin of the In- 
dians and upon the tribes specially dealt 
with in the following pages, so that the 


reader might not find himself, without in- 
troduction, in the very midst of the subject. 
Moreover, books dealing with Indian 
manners and customs have not been so fre- 
quent of late that a new one may pass with- 
out comment, and the present volume has 
special claim to more than momentary 
attention by reason of its authentic value. 
It is the easiest of easy tasks, at this day, to 
compile a volume about anything; stated 
facts are common property, be they or be 
they not trustworthy, and with a little in- 
dustry and a certain amount of literary 
craftsmanship, any person may patch up a 
book about Indians, a subject that does not 
lose its interest. But the present work is 
no compilation; it is a statement of per- 
sonal experience, and has all the merit of 
original observation. One cannot deny to 
these pages the interest which flows from 
this source. No literary charm can con- 
done for imperfect material, but often the 
author's knowledge of his subject lends 
a certain grace to his style; this latter 
claim may safely be made for these 
unaffected chapters. Mrs. Frederick H. 


Paget, when her father, Mr. W. J. Mac- 
Lean, was an officer of the Hudson's 
Bay Company, had many opportunities to 
gain at first-hand the information which 
is now given to the public. Moreover, she 
was gifted with a language-sense which 
made possible a knowledge of the subtlest 
peculiarities of two languages, the Cree and 
O jib way, both highly expressive, but the 
last eminently flexible and poetic. Thus 
from her earliest years she was brought 
into contact with the best specimens of 
the two races. Qu'Appelle, where her 
father was Factor for eight years, was a 
particularly favourable observation-point 
when that post was thronged with a 
free concourse of Indian and half-breed 
traders. The plains were furrowed by 
cart-tracks only, and dotted with the 
fugitive shelters of the aborigines; the 
buffalo was disappearing, and the time 
for change was upon them yet still the 
Indian was lord of his domain. Active 
tribal warfare had ceased, but the post was 
alive with men who had been upon the war- 
path and whose lodges were decorated with 


the trophies of foray and ambush. The 
position which the Factor held gave his 
daughter, no doubt, special privilege and 
opportunity; and growing skill in the 
language added the last power to win 
the confidence of these proud, shy people. 
And two years after, during the half- 
breed troubles of 1885, Miss MacLean 
with her father and the rest of his 
family had sharp experience of the trials 
which attend upon Indian hostilities. Cap- 
tured at Fort Pitt in April of that year by 
Big Bear and his braves, they were held 
until the 17th of June following, sharing 
all the hardships of his shifting camp. Dur- 
ing this experience Mrs. Paget's knowledge 
of the Cree language and her intimacy with 
all the ways of the Indians, even the very 
fashion of their thoughts, proved a constant 
defence for the whole party. The following 
pages must be read by the light of these 
facts; they account for the tone of cham- 
pionship for all Indians, and for the ideal- 
istic tendency which places everything in a 
high and favorable aspect. 

If there were hardship and squalor, 


starvation, inhumanity and superstition in 
this aboriginal life, judged by European 
standards, here it is not evident. All things 
are judged by the Indian idea of happiness, 
and the sophistication of the westerner dis- 
appears. The real felicities of the situation 
are heightened by the glow which might be 
spread over the reminiscences of some 
ancient chief whose lines had been cast in 
pleasant places, and to whom everything in 
the old days had become transfigured. This 
animating spirit is pleasant; there is no 
reason why the arrogance of our so-called 
civilization should everywhere prevail, and 
it is probably fortunate that, when the 
Dominion Government set apart a small 
appropriation for the purpose of gleaning 
such memories as remain of the bygone 
domestic life of the western tribes, the task 
should have fallen to the lot of one whose 
early training placed her rather in the seat 
of the cordial advocate than in that of the 
frigid critic. 

Although the picture here presented is 
not complete in every detail, yet when the 
ancient manners and customs of the Crees 


and Saulteaux have changed and become 
either a matter of conjecture or of vague 
recollection, this book will be sought as a 
faithful record of many old things that have 
passed away. 

D. C. S. 

Department of Indian Affairs. 
April, 1909. 





A primeval faith Kichie Manitou Machie Manitou 
Pow-wah-kunah The Happy Hunting Ground 
Burial customs Trust in the Great Spirit . . 21 


The Sun Dance The invitation The search for the 
centre pole Building the lodge Enter the dancers 
The making of braves Forms of torture . , 


The Medicine Dance, or Dog Feast Gifts to the Pow- 
wah-kun Smoke Dance War Dance Buffalo 
Dance The Lodge Dance The Giving-away Dance 42 


The medicine man Primitive medicines Methods of 
curing the sick The Ween-de-go Love philters 
Bad medicine Medical fees The vapour bath 
Food and sanitary measures 53 


The buffalo Hunting on the plains Method of dress- 
ing the hides Embroidery and dyeing Picture 
writing Pemmican and other food preparations . 68 - 


The scalp-lock Bravery in war Reckless daring in 
hunting Endurance of pain Akoose and his hun- 
dred-mile race Courage of women 82 

2 17 




Transportation The travels Beautiful camping places 
Making a wigwam Tea and Labrador tea A 
strange tea-chest Painting the tepee Women's 
work Story-telling Bead work An ideal exist- 
ence Fire-making Cooking 90 


Signs and wonders The naming of children Peculiar 
reticence as to names The alternative Premoni- 
tions and second-sight The northern lights Ven- 
triloquism 107 


The love of children Methods of training Polygamy 
Natural sensitiveness and inherent dignity 
Indian oratory Poetry and satire 119 


H/wpitality An Indian welcome Friendly terms of 
^y address No beggars Decline in good manners 

Ingratiating speeches Practical jokes .... 128 


Social feasts Council meetings Arranging the signal 
code Scouts and scouting A narrow escape 
Kou - min - ah - koush (Like-a-Pine-Tree) A brave 
grandmother The boy's first raid The subtle 
warrior How the Blackfeet were deceived Chim- 
ass-cous A foray and a Sun Dance A night 
battle A prophecy Kin-ah-cas 137 


Poetry and music Constant improvisation The minor 
mode No poetic or musical literature The march 
song Love songs "The Calling River" The 
farewell song A boy's first song 160 





The Algonquin divinity Wee-sack-ka-chack Napiw S 

'^d ay-na J -push^Two creation myths I&K 


Two more legends Wee-sack-ka-chack and the Bald- 
headed Eagles Wee-sack-ka-chack and the Fox . 




Chief Moonias, Ojibway Frontispiece 

Mutsinamakan and Squaw, Sarcees 24 

A Chief and his Squaws 48 

Cree Indian with Travois 92 

Chief Poundmaker, Cree 112 

Mustatem Moutiapec (Horse Roots), Cree .... 144 

Pisquapita (Hair in Knot), Cree 168 

^A. Prairie Encampment 184 




A primeval faith Kichie Manitou Machie Manitou 
Pow-wah-kunah The Happy Hunting Ground 
Burial customs Trust in the Great Spirit. 

" THE Indians of North America, as I have 
before said, are copper-coloured, with long, 
black hair, black eyes, tall, straight and 
elastic forms are less than two millions 
in number were originally the undisputed 
owners of the soil, and got their title to the 
land from the Great Spirit, who created 
them on it were once a happy and flour- 
ishing people, enjoying all the comforts and 
luxuries of life which they knew of, and 
consequently cared for were sixteen mil- 
lions in number, and sent that number of 
daily prayers to the Almighty, and thanks 
for His goodness and protection."* 

* Catlin's "North American Indian," Vol. I., page 6. 


The foregoing is quoted from one of Cat- 
lin's letters. As he was one of the first 
white men who travelled among the Indians 
to study their habits and characteristics, 
spending eight years among them (1832- 
1839), it is worthy of note that he found 
them offering prayers to the Great Spirit. 
And their faith in these prayers was as the 
faith of a little child ; so that in speaking of 
the Indians it is not quite fair to call them 
pagans or heathens. Their belief in the 
Great Spirit (Kichie Manitou) as the one 
Supreme Being who held their destiny in 
His keeping, and whom they worshipped 
indirectly through the thunder, the wind 
and other manifestations of nature, places 
them above such a soulless classification. 
They also believed in the Bad Spirit 
(Machie Manitou), who was felt to be near 
them, ever tempting them to stray into 
paths of wickedness, and whom they be- 
lieved to be responsible for all harm and 
affliction which befell them. 

They would never worship the Great 
Spirit directly, counting themselves un- 
worthy to address Him, but through some 


of His works. Thus one Indian would ever 
plead through the thunder for such bless- 
ings and gifts as he desired, another would 
approach Him through the winds, or 
through the lightning, or through some bird 
or animal. Their faith in their intercessors 
was remarkable. 

Certain members of the tribe were be- 
lieved to have closer communion with their 
particular intermediator, and these gifted 
Indians possessed wonderful second sight; 
they were consulted in times of pressing 
necessity and urged to plead for blessings 
or guidance. 

These intermediators were called Pow- 
wah-kunah (meaning dreams), and every 
confidence was placed in them. They had a 
wonderful significance for each Indian, 
practically influencing every action of his 
life. Nothing would be undertaken until 
the Pow-wah-kun was appealed to, so that 
the blessing of the Kichie Manitou might 
fall upon such effort. 

The Indians' idea of the life beyond the 
close of the one spent here is certainly 
worth to them any amount of hardship and 


suffering. They believe that after death a 
few days or weeks (according to the lives 
they led upon this earth) shall find them at 
their journey's end, and in a land teeming 
with game of all kinds, where they shall 
live a perfect life forever and ever. This 
land is called the Happy Hunting Grounds, 
a land which must indeed be worth attain- 
ing if the pictures they dream of it 
have anywhere any realization in fact, 
All Indians, according to their belief, 
will reach this land in the end. Some will 
take longer than others on the journey, as 
on the way they will meet with hardships 
and difficulties in order to atone for sins 
committed on this earth. 

In the early days of their existence in 
this territory, they were a*mbdel race. 
Their misdeeds were very few, and they 
were honourable to a degree. But if any- 
one transgressed and committed some trivial 
wrong or misdemeanor, he or she realized 
that the journey to the future home would 
be made more difficult by the Good Spirit. 
And to help these less fortunate ones, their 
friends on earth would provide them, for 







weeks and months after their departure, 
with provisions, wearing apparel, weapons 
and utensils for their use during the jour- 
ney to the Happy Hunting Grounds. 

It was customary for the Indians to 
dispose of their dead upon scaffolds. 
These were built of four good, stout 
poles of from ten to twelve feet in length, 
stuck firmly in the ground, and on the 
top of these would rest other poles, 
making a stage of the desired size. And on 
this peculiar construction would be placed 
the dead body, wrapped in many rolls of 
finely dressed buffalo or deer skins. With 
the body would be placed the dead Indian's 
most treasured possessions in the case of 
a brave, his pipe and weapons, and the 
scalps of any enemies he had been fortunate 
enough to take in time of war, together 
with his festive garments and two or three 
pairs of moccasins. Near the scaffold 
would be left any other articles which his 
friends considered necessary for his use on 
the journey across the valley which divides 
this earth from the Happy Hunting 



It was considered a good omen if rain 
fell shortly after the burial of the departed. 
The body was placed on the scaffold so that 
the rain falling down from the heavens 
( Kichie-kisek-kouck, great and good skies) 
upon the dead body would cleanse it of all 
its sins and hasten its arrival at the Happy 
Hunting Grounds. This was their belief as 
to the washing away of their sins. 

The Indian, in speaking of any incident 
in his life, would always emphasize the fact 
that he was loved by the Great Spirit, or 
Kichie Manitou; for example, he might 
relate the incidents of some very hard 
journey he had successfully undertaken, 
and would conclude the narrative by saying 
that it was accomplished because of the 
great love of the Kichie Manitou. They 
never imagined themselves capable of doing 
even an unimportant thing without this 
love which they believed in so firmly. 

If any member of their tribe or any 
friend were leaving for some long journey, 
or for even a few days, they would always 
say, " May the love of the Great Spirit be 
with you." 



In time of war, when hard pressed by the 
enemy, some members of their band would 
always encourage them to greater effort by 
reminding them of this great love. If they 
were the victors, they would be reminded 
that the victory was theirs only through 
this love. If they met with defeat, it was 
because they had not trusted sufficiently in 
the love of the Great Spirit. So in all their 
doings they never lost sight of the fact that 
for everything they must look to His help 
and love. And when the Indians were first 
met by intelligent white men, they certainly 
were examples of the blessings which come 
from faith in a higher beneficent Power. 


The Sun Dance The invitation The search for 
the centre pole Building the lodge Enter the 
dancers The making of braves Forms of tor- 

THE principal religious ceremony of the 
Crees was undoubtedly the Sun Dance, 
sometimes spoken of as the Thirst Dance. 
In the Cree language it was called Nee-pah- 
quah - see - mun, which means " dancing 
through a day and night without quenching 
one's thirst." 

Passionately attached as are the Crees to 
this ceremony, it is evidently foreign to the 
Algonquin stock. While religious beliefs 
are common to all the tribes of this great 
family and are persistent everywhere, this 
extraordinary religious function is known 
only to the Blackfeet, the Western Crees 
and the Dakotas. The O jib ways do not 
practise it, and there are no traces of it 
among the eastern divisions of the race. 

This ceremony only took place in the 


early summer, generally in the month of 
June, the moon of Young Birds,* and was 
primarily a thank-offering to the Great 
Spirit, Kichie Manitou, for the re-awaken- 
ing of all nature after the silence of winter. 
It was a time for the making of braves, or, 
rather, an opportunity for the test of cour- 
age and endurance; it was a time for 
mourning their dead, and a time of peti- 
tions through their Pow-wah-kuns for fu- 
ture blessings and love. 

Those taking part in it did so at the invi- 
tation of the Indian who felt himself 
worthy to give such a great ceremony. 
And this Indian would not send out his 
invitations on the impulse of the moment, 

* The authority for the following names for months 
(moons) of the year is the old Indian, Qui-witch, who 
is referred to on page 87 : 

The first moon. 

The eagle moon. 

The goose moon. 

The frog moon. 

The mating moon. 

The egg moon. 

The young birds' moon. 

The moulting of birds moon. 

The young birds fly moon. 

The shedding of horns moon. 

The falling leaves moon. 

The falling snow moon. 

The hard ice moon 



but would give the subject long and serious 
consideration. The information as to who 
intended giving the Nee-pah-quah-see-mun 
was usually made known early in the win- 
ter. This was done in order to avoid any 
confusion which might arise if another 
member of the band had thought of issuing 
invitations for such a ceremony. 

The invitations were sent by trusty mes- 
sengers, usually picked from the younger 
men of the band, and to them was entrusted 
the pipe of peace. This pipe might well be 
called a " pipe of ceremony " too, as it 
played an important part in all such events. 
The messengers would ride to distant friend- 
ly bands, and convey to them the informa- 
tion that they carried the pipe from a cer- 
tain member of their band, who extended 
to them an invitation to take part in the 
Nee-pah-quah-see-mun. After the accept- 
ance of the invitation by the smoking of the 
pipe, the messengers would go on to some 
other band. The invitation was usually 
conveyed in the following words : " We 
are young men from (say) Day Star's 
band, and bring an invitation to you 


from White Bear, one of our head- 
men, who requests you to take part in 
the Nee-pah-quah-see-mun which he is 
arranging for the second week in the month 
of young birds (June) at the Last Stand 
Hill. It is to be a time of thank-offering to 
the Kichie Manitou for all His blessings to 
us during the past winter and for the 
return of summer, with all its promises of 
plenty. Come in time to help erect the 
lodge in which it is to take place." 

Very few, if any, Indians did not avail 
themselves of this invitation. And a few 
days before the time appointed, many wig- 
wams would be added to those of the band 
already assembled at the place mentioned. 
This spot was usually chosen for its beauty, 
and was generally situated on some hill or 
mountain-side, with timber and water in 

When all the Indians who had accepted 
the invitation had arrived, the most impos- 
ing part of the ceremony was begun. This 
was the search for and finding of a suitable 
poplar tree for the centre of the dancing 
lodge. A large number of the braves of the 


tribe, dressed and painted in festive attire, 
all mounted upon their best horses, and 
carrying guns and rifles, would ride off in 
search of a huge poplar tree. When a de- 
cision was reached as to the finest tree 
found, they would fire off round after 
round of ammunition, and proceed to cut 
down the tree. After this was accom- 
plished, the Indians would fasten cords or 
ropes, made of buffalo skin, around the 
end and lower branches of the tree, and 
again mounting, would haul it to the spot 
upon which the lodge was to be built. 
During the ride they would sing a special 
song, and fire off numerous volleys from 
their rifles and guns. This singing and fir- 
ing was kept up until the tree, shorn of all 

its lower branches, was placed in position. 
It occupied the exact centre of the lodge, 

and was usually firmly planted in the 
ground at a depth of three or four feet. 
The rest of the lodge was also built of pop- 
lar poles or posts, all green, as no dry or 
decayed wood was allowed to be used in its 
construction. These poles, which were ten 
or twelve feet in height, were planted in the 


ground around the central post, forming a 
large circle of about forty or fifty feet in 
diameter, leaving an opening on the south 
side of about thirty feet for an entrance. 
The roof was also made of poles covered 
over with the green branches of the trees. 
In the inside fully half, or even three-quar- 
ters, of the north side of the' lodge was 
divided off into numerous small compart- 
ments by short posts set in the ground, 
with a lattice-work of rawhide thongs 
around each. All the spaces would be 
filled by a basket-work of green boughs; 
but in each cell or compartment was a 
small opening, just large enough to permit 
a person to crawl in. These openings were 
at the back of the cells facing the large 
space left in the lodge. Each compartment 
was just large enough to hold a person 
when in a sitting posture, and all were of 
a uniform height of, say, four and a half 
feet. Around the opening at the top of 
each ran a piece of rawhide thong to give 
strength to the structure, but this was 
usually hidden by the green leaves and 
branches forming the basket- work. This 
3 33 


lodge or green bower, though very large, 
was built in a surprisingly short space of 
time by willing hands; all the builders 
being in high spirits during its construction^ 

Wfien ready it would at once be filled by 
as many of the dancers as it could accom- 
modate, each cell or compartment being 
occupied by an Indian brave or woman 
dressed in his or her best, with face painted 
in all the brilliant colours of the rainbow. 
As their entrance was made very quickly 
and secretly from the back of the lodge, the 
effect was startling to an onlooker, when 
the drumming and singing began, and all 
the dancers rose out of the mass of green 
foliage of which the cells were made. In 
the mouth of each dancer was held a small 
whistle or flute, made from the leg-bone of 
the crane. These little pipes were gaily 
decorated with streamers of coloured deer 
skin or ribbon, coloured porcupine quills 
and beads, but never heavily ornamented, 
as they were to be held for so long a time in 
the mouth of each dancer. The dancing 
consisted of an up and down movement of 
the body without rising from the feet, to the 


rhythm of the drumming and chanting, and 
at each downward movement of the body 
the piping note from the little flute was 
blown by the dancer. All these soft little 
notes were wonderfully sweet, and seemed 
to harmonize with the chanting of the men 
and women who were the musicians for the 
occasion. These singers were relieved by 
others at short intervals, but the Indians 
taking part in the dance were expected to 
dance and fast for a day and a night 
(twenty-four hours) at the very least 
though upon occasion some only danced for 
a short time, say, ten hours. 

The ceremony usually lasted three or four 
days, according to the number wishing to 
take part in it. The dancers were expected 
to keep their eyes upon the central post 
during the time they danced, and this was 
done even when other Indians were going 
through all kinds of torture near the lodge. 

The making of braves consisted of endur- 
ing all manner of self-inflicted tortures. 
Certain of these never varied; they were 
suffered by those who had previously quali- 
fied in other Nee-pah-quah-see-muns. Only 


a few Indians at each ceremony prepared 
for these degrees of torture. 

The most trying of all these was the 
leading of a spirited horse right up to the 
central post of the lodge. The Indian going 
through this degree required any amount of 
courage and endurance, as the horse was 
led by a leather line or thong attached to 
two small sticks or skewers which had been 
stuck through the fleshy part of the In- 
dian's body just over the shoulder-blades. 
These skewers were about five or six inches 
long, and fully two inches of the centre of 
each stick was imbedded in the flesh. 
Around the ends of each would be fastened 
a noose of the leather thong, and to these 
the longer or leading line was attached. 
The task of passing the sharp skewers 
through the flesh of the would-be brave was 
always performed by the medicine man. 

The Indian leading the horse usually 
began the ordeal by making a wide circle 
around the encampment, and gradually 
lessening the distance as the horse became 
accustomed to the noises of the drumming 
and singing, until at last he would walk 


into the opening of the lodge or bower and 
right up to the central post. This was not 
an easy matter, as the horse would often 
refuse to go into the lodge, and even 
attempt to run away sometimes. At other 
times an Indian would be fortunate enough 
to have a spirited animal who would follow 
his master into any place, and not give him 
any unnecessary torture. 

When once the Indian had walked up to 
the central post of the lodge, he was re- 
leased from his torture by the medicine 
man, who pulled the sticks out of his back, 
at the same time remarking that his " heart 
was strong." 

Another form of taking this degree of 
courage was by trailing upon the ground 
an old buffalo head by means of a leather 
thong fastened to the skewers or sticks 
through an Indian's back. This was also a 
very painful performance, as the horns of 
the buffalo head would often become en- 
tangled in brush or heavy grass, necessitat- 
ing many painful stops and round-about 
ways in order to extricate the horns. The 
Indian would haul this head around the 


whole encampment, gradually working his 
way to the lodge, and after reaching the 
large post would be released. The Indians 
would sometimes faint while undergoing 
these peculiar ordeals to attain the envied 
degree of bravery. Those who got through 
without losing consciousness would very 
soon be seen in the cells dancing as if they 
had not undergone anything out of the ordi- 
nary. If they were pale from the effects of 
the torture the pallor was hidden by the 
extra amount of paint used on their faces 
when dressing for the dance. 

Anyone not familiar with the features of 
the Indians taking part in the dance might 
not recognize them after each interval of 
dancing, as during the intermissions be- 
tween the singing and dancing, in the 
seclusion of their cells, they would paint 
their faces in an entirely different style and 

The re-appearance of an Indian in the 
dance always created a flutter of excitement, 
and caused many flattering remarks as to his 
bravery and powers of endurance. But an 
Indian never boasted of these feats; and if 


he ever did refer to them, did so in a very 
casual and modest way. In any case it 
was most unlikely that any of the Indian* 
who had seen him undergoing the torture 
would or could forget his courage and 
they would speak of it for years after. 

The women also underwent certain forms 
of torture, and these, too, required a great 
deal of courage. These self-sacrifices on the 
part of the women were, properly speak- 
ing, memorial offerings for their departed 
loved ones. The woman who wished to 
undergo this suffering had her arms from 
the elbow down slashed with cuts from a 
sharp knife ; this was also done by the medi- 
cine man. In the case of the women the 
torture was inflicted after they had taken 
part in the dance. Some women, and men 
also, would have their hair cut short, as a 
memorial for their dead. As every Indian 
was proud of his hair, these offerings, 
though painless, required great self-sacri- 

During the time the Sun Dance was in 
progress, any Indian taking part gave to 
the spirits of his departed friends, according 


to his means, offerings which were hung 
upon the trees or poles for three or more 
days, after which lapse of time they were 
taken away by friends of the donors if they 
wished to appropriate them. It was a real 
gift, as they never resumed them. In this 
interval of three or four days, it was held 
that the spirits had used them fully, and 
after that time they might be fairly taken 
and utilized by the living. These offerings 
are supposed to be required by the souls 
of the Indians in the Happy Hunting 
Grounds, and they were various anything, 
in fact, from wearing apparel to cooking 
utensils, even steel traps, being offered. 
But these offerings were really unneces- 
sary, as every Indian taking part in the 
ceremony could do so as a memorial service 
or as a thank-offering for the return of sum- 
mer, or by way of petition to his Pow-wah- 

Sometimes these Nee-pah-quah-see-mun 
ceremonies were disturbed by the approach 
of enemies. At such a time they might 
easily be stolen upon, as all entered into the 
spirit of the performance so heartily that 



they were apt to forget the existence of any 
hostile tribes. They looked upon such sur- 
prises as an omen of misfortune and loss. 
The last instance of such an unwelcome 
visit happened early in June, 1885, during 
the North-West Rebellion. The Indians 
had only just begun the ceremonies when 
they were surprised by General Strange's 



The Medicine Dance, or Dog Feast Gifts to the Pow- 
wah-kun Smoke Dance War Dance Buffalo 
Dance The Lodge Dance The Giving-away 

THE feast second in importance was the 
Medicine Dance, or Dog Feast, called by the 
Indians the Mee-tah-win. This, also, took 
place during the summer season, as the 
lodge was made of green trees and branches. 
It was built in the shape of a long " A " 
tent, with an opening at either end. There 
were also several openings in the roof of 
the lodge to allow the escape of smoke from 
the fire which they built in the middle. 
The lodge was generally very large, fully 
thirty or forty feet in length, and high 
enough to permit the Indians to dance 
around the fire in its centre. 

This feast was for the medicine men, and 

very few other Indians took part in it. 

Those who did so signified their intention 

of becoming medicine men, and were taught 



many of the arts of healing by the older 
members of the cult. For this tuition they 
had to pay very liberally. Women also 
were allowed to take part in this dance, and 
joined in learning the medicinal properties 
of herbs and roots. 

The Indians, both men and women, who 
furnished the singing and drumming for 
the festival sat at one side of the fire, 
usually near one of the entrances, the drum- 
ming being always done by the men. 
The shrill voices of the women, pitched 
in a minor key, blended very effective- 
ly with the deeper tones of the men, and 
from a distance the sounds were very har- 

Each dancer would carry around small 
stuffed animals, such as the mink and 
weasel, fastened to long, slender sticks. 
During the dance around the fire they 
would thrust these little medicine-charms 
into the faces of the onlookers. If the 
dancer pointed the little token at one of the 
spectators (who gave every attention to the 
dance) that one immediately bowed the 
head, thus ensuring himself against any 


evil which might have emanated from the 
charm. It was supposed by the Indians 
that a hard substance would soon be felt in 
the throat, if the head was not bowed im- 
mediately. This substance would even- 
tually cause death if allowed to remain in 
the body, and therefore it is easy to under- 
stand the attention given to every dancer. 

Some of the dancers, who were known to 
be kind and friendly, very seldom indulged 
in this practice, but the older medicine men, 
and those who were stricter in their obser- 
vances of the rules of the Mee-tah-win, fol- 
lowed closely this part of the ritual which 
might be attended by such fatal results. 

At this ceremony or rite the medicine men 
would serve dog-flesh to any of the Indians 
who wished to partake of the dish. The 
dog was killed by being hanged, and after it 
was quite dead would be singed, not skinned, 
and cooked over the fire in the medicine 
lodge. After it was cooked the medicine 
men would be served first, then the other 
Indians. It was considered a very great 
honour to eat dog with the medicine men at 
this feast, and every Indian who could be 



present would be served with a small 

After the feast, or Mee-tah-win, was over 
(it usually lasted four or five days), the 
Indians would give away or throw away all 
manner of things to their Pow-wah-kunah 
(dreams). These offerings would be hung 
from poles, trees, etc., and generally on 
some hill or elevation. They would consist 
of buffalo robes, red and blue cloth, 
blankets, prints or calicoes, moccasins and 
other wearing apparel, fire-arms, cooking 
utensils, etc. For days and even months 
these offerings would attract the eye 
of the traveller passing by the place where 
the Mee-tah-win had been held. If any one 
were curious enough to make a careful 
examination of the land in the vicinity they 
would find many offerings of Indian medi- 
cine hidden away in holes and under 
shrubs. This medicine was offered to the 
Great Spirit so that He would give to the 
person offering it more skill in the treat- 
ment of all ailments and greater knowledge 
of roots and herbs. 

None of the Indians ever disturbed these 


gifts of medicine, as they were supposed to 
bring bad luck and misfortune to the per- 
son touching them. Sometimes this medi- 
cine was poison, and it was for the Bad 
Spirit, who in return for the offering was 
supposed to work all imaginable harm to 
the enemies of the medicine man or woman 
who left the poison as an offering. 

The fact that these caches of medicine 
consisted sometimes of poisons may have 
been one reason why they were never dis- 
turbed ; the Indians being terrified of " bad 
medicine," as its effect was usually most 
disfiguring, and all Indians (especially the 
men) are most vain of their personal ap- 

These two ceremonies had more signifi- 
cance for them than any other of their 
dances. Every one of the dances had a 
peculiar and special importance, and 
though all were to a certain extent a 
thanksgiving to the Great Spirit, none were 
so solemn and impressive as the Nee-pah- 
quah-see-mun (Sun Dance) and Mee-tah- 
win (Medicine Dance). 

The Indians in the years long past had 


another ceremony which they called the 
" Smoke Dance." This was a festival in 
connection with the pipe of peace, the con- 
secrating ceremony of a new pipe. It is 
many years now since such a dance was 
celebrated among our Indians, and very 
little is known of it. 

The Indians taking part in it gave thanks 
to the Great Spirit for giving them the red 
sandstone for the making of their pipes, 
and for the red willow, of which the pipe 
stems were made. The dance was given by 
an Indian (or two or three Indians) who 
had been given the pipe of peace, generally 
in recognition of some act which called for 
an extra amount of bravery, or by those 
who had finished the tedious task of making 
the pipe. During the ceremony the pipes 
would be taken out of their wrappings of 
soft deerskin and fine furs, and after being 
filled with the dried inner bark of the red 
willow (which the Indians used when they 
had no tobacco, and which they still use 
with tobacco), they would light it with a 
live ember from the fire, and before placing 
it near the mouth, would point to the four 


principal points of the compass and to the 
heavens above and the earth underneath, 
then they would each inhale once from the 
pipe as it was passed around. After the 
pipe had been smoked by every Indian 
present the musicians would start their 
singing and drumming, and the dancing 
would begin; the owners of the pipe danc- 
ing around and pointing with the pipe and 
stem in the directions above-mentioned. 
Considering the significance to them of the 
pipe of peace, it would seem possible that 
this dance was looked upon by the Indians 
as being quite as important as the Medicine 
Dance or Dog Feast. 

Many of their dances were indulged in 
after a battle, and these were in every way 
a thanksgiving to the Great Spirit for their 
deliverance from the hands of their ene- 
mies, but were of a joyful character. The 
War Dance was performed before a con- 
templated battle, the Scalp Dance after it 
had been fought and won. 

The Buffalo Dance was a very peculiar 
one, and was indulged in by very few of the 
Indians. Those taking part in it would 


paint or colour all their bodies with red 
clay, and would wear a buffalo head or 
mask, which had been skinned and dried, 
with the horns complete, and which looked 
wonderfully natural ; into their belts at the 
back they would stick the tail of a buffalo, 
and around their ankles they wore strips of 
buffalo hide. The very heaviest part of the 
fur, taken from the boss or hump, was used 
for these anklets. In their hands the 
dancers carried long spears, decorated with 
buffalo tails, and coloured strips of dressed 
buffalo-skin. The dancers were formed in 
a very large circle, but not confined to it, in 
the centre of which stood a young boy and 
girl, holding in their hands a small vessel 
containing some kind of medicine. These 
children would be kept standing for hours 
at a time while the Indians danced around 
them ; and as the dancers could sit down and 
rest between intervals of singing and drum- 
ming, they never seemed to realize how very 
tired the two youngsters could become, or 
if the day was very hot, how harmful it was 
for them. Upon the last celebration of this 
4 49 


dance at Fort Qu'Appelle, the little girl 
fainted before the ceremony was finished. 

The Indians taking part in it would 
jump up as soon as the musicians started 
their singing and drumming, and after 
running around all or part of the circle, 
would dance about as long as the music 
lasted; as soon as it stopped they would sit 
down and rest. This was the most ani- 
mated and interesting of all the dances. 
The Indians, daubed with the rusty-red clay, 
bearing their grotesque and hideous masks, 
and armed with long spears from which 
flaunted coloured streamers, rushed hither 
and thither, charging the spectator as 
if an infuriated buffalo were about to im- 
pale him upon his horns, and, with the 
cessation of the drumming, sank exhausted 
to the ground. The airs the musicians sang 
for this dance were really very tuneful, and 
were an inspiration to the dancers. 

Another dance was called the Lodge 
Dance, so named because it was always car- 
ried on in a large lodge made of many wig- 
wam coverings and their poles. This was 
for the young men and women of the tribes, 


the only old Indians taking part in it being 
the musicians and drummers. 

There were other dances of no real im- 
portance, which any Indian could begin 
for instance, the " Giving-away Dance/' 
which would be started by some Indian who 
happened to have something he wished to 
give to some friend of his. He would take a 
small flat drum, and with his hand beat an 
accompaniment to a song, the words of 
which would mean that the present he was 
giving was the very best of its kind to be 
had, was new and was very useful. The 
recipient would have to give something in 
exchange, and in a little while almost every 
Indian in the camp would be seen bobbing 
up and down to the time of the beating of 
the drum and the song of the " Giving- 
away Dance." 

The Indians have a keen sense of 
humour, and many of them would make up 
the most ridiculous words in praise of some 
article they were giving away, and thus 
cause no end of amusement to the onlookers. 
To such an extreme was this dance carried 
at times, that some of the Indians would 



give away almost everything they possessed, 
so that it was a positive blessing when rain 
came and put a stop to it. 

Then there was another dance called 
the Kound Dance, which was for the women 
of the tribe only. They danced in a small 
circle to their own singing and drumming. 
This was a very pretty dance, as the women 
and girls were always dressed in their very 
best, with faces painted and hair smoothly 
brushed and plaited; they were very pic- 
turesque and graceful in their movements. 

Then there was the " Cannibal Dance," 
taken part in altogether by the old men. 
They would try to make themselves as hide- 
ous as possible (and that was not much of 
an effort) and would hop and limp around 
to their own " singing," which consisted of 
groans and other peculiar noises. They 
took great pleasure in this dance, and 
caused much merriment to the rest of the 


The medicine man Primitive medicines Methods 
of curing the sick The Ween-de-go Love phil- 
ters Bad medicine Medical fees The vapour 
bath Food and sanitary measures. 


The Indians who were known as " Medi- 
cine Men" were looked upon as possessing 
all sorts of peculiar gifts and powers. First 
of all came their knowledge of the curative 
properties of many different roots and 
herbs. In many cases these medicine men 
did understand their medicinal qualities, 
but others again worked upon the faith of 
their patients to a great extent. It is to be 
feared many Indians were not entitled to 
the amount of honour they received by vir- 
tue of their title of " Muskick-kee-wee-ni- 
nee" (Medicine Man). 

The real medicine man began early in 
life to make a study of curing the sick by 
the use of roots and herbs, and seldom 
made use of the unnecessary amount of 
noise from drums and rattles (see-see- 


quans) which, so many of them used in try- 
ing to cure their patients. In the prescrip- 
tions of roots and herbs the old women of 
the band were very often more to be trusted 
than the men. The cures these old women 
effected were in many cases wonderful. 

It often happened that an Indian and his 
wife worked together in the healing of the 
sick, and it was usually expected that the 
best results would be achieved by these com- 
panions in the healing art. These two In- 
dians would keep very much to themselves, 
and could be seen at any hour of the day, 
from sunrise to sunset, digging and search- 
ing for their roots and herbs. After finding 
them they would dry them, either in the 
sun or by the camp fire, and, after they 
were dry, they would tie them up in little 
round parcels. The wrappings were 
usually made of soft deerskin, tied with 
strings of the same material. The outside 
of each bundle was always coloured in 
different hues, and they could, therefore, 
be easily distinguished one from another. 
For example, all the medicine for headache 
was parcelled up in little red bundles, that 


for colds in yellow bundles; the colour 
on the outside of each was as good 
as a label. All these parcels were kept 
in a large medicine bag, also made of 
leather and decorated with all manner of 
crude drawings, but principally by the out- 
line of the medicine man's " Pow-wah-kun," 
or dream. This medicine bag was kept 
hanging on a pole outside the medicine 
man's wigwam ; no other sign was necessary 
to show you where the gifted Indian lived 
or camped. 

When he was not engaged looking for 
medicinal herbs the medicine man was shut 
up in his wigwam singing different weird 
songs and incantations to his particular 
Pow-wah-kun to bring him greater skill 
in his profession or calling. They were not 
supposed to be interrupted during these 
secret ceremonies. 

The more reserved of the medicine men 
and women were respected according to 
their exclusiveness, and were only ap- 
proached in time of great necessity. These 
old Indians always made use of the medi- 
cine rattles (see-see-quans) and, if called 


upon to cure any really sick person they 
would sing and rattle these little see-see- 
quans right over the head of the patient. 
These remedial rites were practised in case 
of fever and delirium especially. Such a 
noise did they make in the wigwam of the 
poor unfortunate Indian that it is a wonder 
he ever survived a " treatment " by these 
old medicine men. 

In explaining their reasons for using the 
see-see-quans and drums over a sick person, 
an old Indian said : " When it has been 
very hot during the summer for days at a 
time, all the flowers, trees, and grasses 
droop and fade. Now to revive these the 
Great Spirit sends the thunder and light- 
ning and rain, and in a little while all 
nature is refreshed and lives again. He 
awakens them with the thunder, we try to 
awaken our sick with the see-see-quans and 
drums, and at the same time give him medi- 
cine to drink, just as the Great Spirit sends 
the rain to help the drooping leaves and 
grass." / 

When/a person became delirious or de- 
mented the Indians imagined him pos- 


sessed of the spirit of a cannibal (Ween- 
de-go), and if the unfortunate patient re- 
mained delirious for any length of time he 
was usually killed by being burned. The 
medicine man confessed himself baffled by 
delirium, or any alienation of the mind, 
and after trying without success to give 
some relief to the afflicted person, would 
warn his friends that unless some Indian 
or member of his family, who was known to 
be on unfriendly terms with the patient, 
did not come forward and help do away 
with the Ween-de-go, the bad spirit 
would enter into him. The Indians had 
strong superstitions regarding cannibals 
and lunatics, and with tears in their eyes 
would help burn the poor patient. The In- 
dians, having no asylums or any means of 
isolating their unfortunate lunatics, were 
compelled to do away with them. It was 
utterly impossible for an Indian to go on a 
hunting expedition and leave his family to 
the mercy of a lunatic; so that any person 
showing marked signs of insanity was dis- 
patched by his sorrowing and superstitious 
friends. Fortunately, years ago there was 


very little fever, and, consequently, less 
delirium amongst the Indians. 

The medicine man was often appealed to 
by Indians who were unfortunate in their 
love affairs. He was supposed to have 
medicine or charms which would bring 
about the desired results. If any young 
woman knew her rejected suitor had gone 
to the medicine man (and the information 
was usually conveyed to her), she at once 
tried to treat her lover more kindly. And 
this was supposed to be the result of the 
" medicine," whereas it was really the fear 
of harm from the old medicine man which 
brought about the change. The medicine 
used on these occasions was sprinkled 
liberally over two little wooden images, 
supposed to represent the young man and 
woman whose love was not reciprocal. 
After they had been sprinkled with the 
medicine, some hair from the head of the 
person whose love was desired would be 
bound around the two images, and then 
they would be wrapped up in fine deerskin. 
They would be carried about by the person 
who was desirous of being loved. Then the 


information was conveyed that the medi- 
cine man had made " love medicine," and, 
as has been said before, the results were 
usually satisfactory. If they were not, the 
two little images would be thrown away, 
and, in consequence, the person for whom 
the " love medicine " was intended would 
suffer for years with very severe headaches. 
This is the reason why Indians were always 
so careful to burn any hair which they lost 
from their heads (the scalp lock excepted; 
it could not be destroyed, and it was sel- 
dom combed after once being plaited and 
tied into position). 

Another peculiar medicine which was 
very much dreaded by the Indians was 
a "bad medicine" (Muchie-mus-kee-kee) 
which made them turn black and caused a 
growth of down to appear all over their 
faces. This was the revenge taken by some 
Indian who had suffered any real or imagi- 
nary wrong at the hands of another. The 
poor Indian who was afflicted by this form 
of poison was disfigured for life, and if he 
or she had ever possessed any attractive- 
ness it was most effectively obliterated. A 


strange thing in connection with this phase 
of poisoning was that the medicine men 
and women were more often poisoned than 
any other members of the tribe. This may 
be accounted for by the unusual amount of 
jealousy which existed among them. As a 
matter of fact, there was more unfriendli- 
ness between the medicine men than among 
all the rest of the tribe. The Indians, as a 
rule, were most friendly and kind to each 
other, but were very sensitive, and often 
took exception to remarks made by thought- 
less persons who had really intended no 
harm, but caused it by their tactlessness. 
If the remarks caused him to be ridiculed 
the injured person would frequently brood 
over the gossip or jibe until it assumed such 
importance that he would strive to be re- 
venged, and would consult the medicine 
man, who would administer the poison. It 
was no wonder, then, that the respect which 
the medicine men should have commanded 
was so often tinged with fear. 

Though they charged as much as they 
could possibly get from their patients, the 
medicine men never dressed as well; as the 


other Indians. It was a common thing to 
hear of an Indian paying the medicine man 
for his services with a pony, or even two. 
Yet when the band was travelling from one 
point to another the medicine man would 
usually tramp along laden with his impedi- 
menta while the rest of the band rode on 

A noticeable possession of the medicine 
man was his collection of canines. One 
might well wonder where an Indian could 
possibly have gathered so many specimens 
of that animal, and why he kept them. The 
dogs were so ugly and vicious that they 
served their master as a body-guard ; no one 
could approach him or his wigwam with- 
out raising a loud protest from them. So 
when any Indian wished to visit the medi- 
cine man he had to summon his courage 
and arm himself with a good stout stick. 
The most aggravating part of the visit 
would be the utter indifference of the old 
medicine man to the yelping and snarling 
of his dogs and to the discomfort of his 
visitor. Not until the very last minute 
would the dogs be remonstrated with by 



their owner. The old medicine women 
would have even a larger number of these 
dogs, and if possible, a more vicious lot. 
One can readily understand, then, how 
easy it was for these old Indians to keep to 
themselves. The wigwam of the medicine 
man was really the only one in the whole 
encampment which was not entered with- 
out " knocking at the door," so to speak. 

In the years long past, when our Indians 
were at war with so many other tribes, it 
was customary to keep a great many dogs 
around each camping-ground, so that they 
would sound an alarm at the approach of 
the enemy. But latterly these were kept by 
the medicine men and women only, for 
though there are usually any number of 
dogs roaming around an encampment of 
Indians, the most of them will invariably 
be found to belong to that particular class 
of old Indian. In fact, it is impossible to 
imagine these Indians without their faith- 
ful, if noisy, companions. 

As has been said before, the medicine 
man was usually feared quite as much, if 
not more, than respected; and there were 



many Indians who tried in different ways 
to make existence for them unpleasant, 
especially for those who were known to be 
too free with their knowledge of " bad medi- 
cine." They would often find themselves 
minus a pony which perhaps only a few 
days before had been received in payment 
for administering poison to some unfor- 

There were, nevertheless, many of the 
old medicine men and women who were 
loved and respected by the band, and who 
never made use of their knowledge to hurt 
or injure others by harmful medicines. 
These old Indians did all they possibly 
could to alleviate the ills and afflictions of 
their patients, and some of the cures they 
wrought were really wonderful. 

A great many of their methods of treat- 
ing the sick will remain unknown to us, as 
they are, with many other practices, a 
thing of the past. It is very doubtful if the 
medicine man ever revealed to any white 
man all the secrets of his healing art. It 
was such a solemn thing to them that they 
very seldom spoke of it even among them- 



selves; so very naturally they would be 
even more reticent about it when with 
strangers. There is no doubt that many of 
their methods, such as bleeding and the 
vapour baths, were copied by any of the 
Indians who felt they could safely employ 
these means of lessening their ills, but 
there were many things known only to the 
medicine man which will never be known 
to anyone else. That some of these old In- 
dians devoted their lives to the healing of 
their sick goes without saying, and that 
they looked to the Great Spirit for His 
blessing and assistance is also very true of 
those Indians who did so much to alleviate 
the ills of their race. They tried to do good, 
and in many cases accomplished much, for 
which they earned the gratitude of the 
members of their band. They firmly be- 
lieved that Kichie Manitou had planted in 
the ground all manner of healing things, 
and if they only could find them and use 
them there would never be any sickness 
among the Indians. Many of them devoted 
their lives to searching for those healing 
plants; and when they were nearing the 


end of their journey on this earth would 
remind those who were following in their 
calling to keep up the good work, as they 
felt there was so much more to be dis- 
covered than they had found. 

Surely the journey of these old Indians 
to the Happy Hunting Grounds was made 
pleasant for them by the Great Spirit who 
watched over all their patients, and gave 
them knowledge to do good when they ap- 
pealed to Him. >A 

Years ago there was comparatively little 
sickness among the Indians. The outdoor 
life they led, the food they ate, everything 
made for a healthful existence. One never 
heard of epidemics breaking out among the 
Indians then. They kept themselves clean, 
and never stayed for any length of time in 
one camping-place. They moved their 
tepees on an average two or three times a 
week in the summer season, and in winter 
would have a plentiful supply of clean 
spruce boughs or hay and moss, with which 
they would cover the ground in their 
tepees; and this was changed every few 
days to ensure cleanliness. If it were 
5 65 


known that an Indian did not keep his tepee 
in a clean and fresh condition he was 
avoided by the rest of the band, and, if 
necessary, was told why. In this way, it 
was easy to keep up their standard of 

Long ago the Indians used to indulge in 
a vapour bath which they called ma-too- 
tah-win. This bath was taken in a small 
tent covered securely with buffalo robes. 
The steam or vapour was obtained by 
pouring water on a few large stones 
which had previously been heated and 
placed in a hole in the ground inside the 
little tent. Even now one may see occa- 
sionally a place where an Indian had en- 
joyed his Turkish bath. The " ma-too-tah- 
wee-ca-mick," or vapour lodge, was built by 
bending strong and supple boughs of the wil- 
low, and sticking the larger ends firmly into 
the ground, forming a circle, the smaller 
ends being tied or braided at the top. 
This was four or even six feet in diameter 
and about three feet high. It was covered 
by buffalo robes or dressed leather, having 
a small opening by which the Indian 


crawled inside; this he did after the hot 
stones had been rolled into the hole made 
for them. After he was inside the little 
lodge, a vessel containing some water 
would be handed him, and the opening or 
door securely closed. Then, when un- 
dressed, he would splash the water on the 
hot stones, causing the steam to rise. The 
Indian would remain in the tent for quite 
a long time afterwards, in order to avoid 
taking cold. They claimed this vapour 
bath rid their bodies of any impurities and 
fortified them against diseases. 

Their food was always nourishing; the 
main part of it consisted of buffalo meat, 
dried and pounded, or powdered and made 
into pemmican. They also used a great 
quantity of dried fruits, and occasionally 
wild rice (Zizania aquatica) an ideal 
food, being sufficiently rich and starchy to 
constitute a perfect diet in itself. 



The buffalo Hunting on the plains Method of 
dressing the hides Embroidery and dyeing 
Picture writing Pemmican and other food 

WHAT the Indians did not owe to the 
buffalo one can hardly imagine. This 
noble beast provided them with almost 
everything they required in the olden 
times. Every part of its flesh was con- 
verted into food, dried and preserved so 
that it could be kept for months and 
even years, without losing any of its 
nutritive qualities, and on it they could 
subsist entirely, if they were not in a 
position to obtain any of the wild vegeta- 
tion which constituted the cereal part of 
their food. The hides of the animals were 
worn instead of blankets, which they never 
saw until the white man brought them into 
their country. The buffalo skins were also 
tanned or dressed into soft leather, which 
they used in making their wigwams or 


tepees, and for their bedding. The buffalo 
skins when dressed and smoked were used 
for their clothing and footwear. The un- 
tanned skins or parchments were used to 
make their saddles and bridles, and for 
lassoes and thongs. The horns were shaped 
into spoons and drinking cups. The 
brains were used in the tanning of the 
skins. The bones were used for the differ- 
ent implements required in the tanning and 
dressing of the skins, for saddle horns, and 
for war clubs. The bones were also 
crushed, and all the marrow fat contained 
in them was boiled or melted out. The 
sinews were dried and used for makng 
thread for sewing their garments, as well 
as for strings for their bows. The feet and 
hoofs were boiled for the glue they con- 
tained, which the Indians used for fasten- 
ing their arrow points and for other pur- 
poses. The long hair from the head and 
shoulders was twisted and plaited into hal- 
ters, and the tail was used for a brush with 
which to kill flies and mosquitoes. 

The Indians took great pride in the skill 
required to kill these animals, and were 


justly proud when they possessed a strong, 
swift pony, trained to run after the buffalo. 
As the latter often showed fight when hard 
pressed, the ponies required to be very 
well trained indeed, and the Indian to have 
more than ordinary courage. It was no 
mean accomplishment to be a good buffalo 
hunter; and one can imagine no greater 
sport than that of a genuine buffalo hunt, 
as indulged in years ago by the Indians. In 
those days the noble animal of the plains 
travelled over the prairies in great herds, 
and often the Indians would have to ride 
for miles after them in order to get near 
enough to be able to kill them with their 
bows and arrows, or spears. When guns 
and rifles were first introduced it revolu- 
tionized the buffalo hunt, and helped to 
exterminate these animals, as the In- 
dians soon became very skilled in the 
use of these weapons. The bow and arrow, 
however, was the favourite weapon for 
hunting the buffalo, as it was swift and 
silent. The Indians have been known to 
shoot an arrow through one animal and 
into another. One cannot write of the 


Indians of the prairies without mentioning 
the buffalo; and anyone interested in the 
former must regret the extermination of 
the latter. One can sympathize with the 
older Indians, types of a dying race, in their 
lament for the days gone by when they were 
the sole inhabitants of the vast prairies in 
the West, free to roam wherever they felt- 
inclined to go; free to hunt the buffalo and 
other game, which they firmly believed were 
there only for their use, provided by the 
Great Spirit, who took such care of them. 

One old Indian, in speaking of their early 
life as he knew it, said : " They were 
wealthy because they had all they could 
possibly desire. They were happy because 
they were healthy, and had such a beautiful 
country. Kichie Manitou took care of 
them in those days. He held them in the 
palm of His hand, as if they were frail 
as an egg-shell; when there were storms 
and tempests, and in the winter time, He 
would cover them with His other hand and 
shield them from all harm." To a people 
who believed so firmly in the goodness and 
protection of the Great Spirit that they 


turned to Him for every little want, whose 
faith in Him was beyond the ordinary con- 
ception of the word, came the white man, 
and, alas, with his coming came their un- 

Certainly it would appear that the white 
men helped to exterminate the buffalo, 
which provided the Indians with food and 
raiment, by buying as many of the robes as 
they could possibly get, out of season as 
well as in season. The Indians would kill 
hundreds of them just for their pelts alone. 

The hides were dressed in the following 
manner by the Indian women. After the 
hide had been taken from the animal, it was 
hung over the branch of a tree and a sharp 
instrument was used to scrape off any fat 
or flesh adhering to the skin. This little 
implement, usually made from the lower 
bone of the foreleg of the animal, h'acl 
nicked or serrated edges at the wider end 
of the bone, which had first been filed down 
as flat and as sharp as possible. The part 
used as a handle was bound around by a 
thong of dressed buffalo skin, with a loop at 
the end into which the arm was slipped, to 


table it to be more securely held by the 
operator. After all the fat and flesh had 
been removed from the skin, it was 
stretched flat on the ground, with the skin 
next to the earth, and left there till dried 
by the heat of the sun. When it was per- 
fectly dry, and the hide was to be dressed 
or tanned into leather, the hair was scraped 
off by another sharp instrument, resem- 
bling a small hoe, and made from the horn 
of an elk, the crook in the horn being filed 
down flat and as sharp as it could be made. 
The filing was done by stones, the only 
thing they could use for this purpose years 
ago. This little tool was used by the In- 
dian women with a peculiar swaying 
motion of the body, and it was surprising 
how quickly every particle of the hair was 
removed from the skin. In this state it was 
called parchment, and was used to make 
thongs and lassoes, and also to make canoes 
or boats. 

After all the hair was removed, the parch- 
ment was hung or placed on poles over a 
fire for a few minutes, and then taken 
down, spread on the ground again, and 


grease sprinkled over it, usually squirted 
through the mouth of the person tanning it. 
Then it was again placed on the poles over 
the fire, and left until the grease was per- 
fectly absorbed. Great care was taken all 
the time it was hanging over the fire not to 
scorch the parchment in the least, as that, 
of course, would ruin it. 

After the grease had been thoroughly ab- 
sorbed by the skin or hide a mixture com- 
posed of the brains of the buffalo and 
wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) was 
rubbed well into the hide, and left for a 
short time to be absorbed by it, and when 
this was partially accomplished the cooked 
liver of the animal, after it had been 
crushed and pounded up, usually by a flat 
stone in a shallow vessel made of clay or 
birch bark, was rubbed or spread all over 
it, and a few minutes after warm water 
was gently poured on the skin until it was 
thoroughly soaked through. It was then 
folded up and left over night. The next 
morning it would be hung over a pole or 
strong line, and all the brain, wormwood 
and liver would be carefully scraped off. 


It was then washed and wrung out per- 
fectly dry. This wringing was done by pass- 
ing the folded hide around a strong post or 
small tree and around a short, stout stick 
of about a yard in length, which would be 
twisted in the hands of the tanner until 
almost every particle of moisture was 
squeezed or wrung out of it. After this it 
r as hung out in the sun and allowed to 
dry, but during this process of drying it 
was frequently taken down and rubbed 
through a hoop made of coarse sinew, so 
that when it was dry the skin was almost 
as soft as flannel. This final process was 
really the most tedious part of the whole 
work, as it would take hours to thoroughly 
soften it. The older the animal, the more 
tedious would be the softening process. 

The leather was always comparatively 
white, but if it was to be used for making 
moccasins or other wearing apparel it was 
smoked. The smoking was done by stitch- 
ing up the skin in the form of a bag, build- 
ing a fire, or rather, smudge, of decayed or 
rotten wood, and stretching the bag over it ; 
the bag being held firmly in place by small 


poles, and pegged securely to the ground 
over the smudge, which was built in a small 
round hole in the ground. None of the 
smoke was allowed to escape. After one 
side had been thoroughly smoked and had 
taken on a rich golden brown colour, the 
bag would be removed, turnetl inside out, 
placed over the smudge again, and that side 
also thoroughly smoked. This finish by 
smoking would ensure the leather being 
kept perfectly soft after any number of con- 
tacts with rain and water. 

When the Indians made their wigwams 
or tepees of the leather, it was used without 
being smoked, as the fires which were built 
in their tepees very soon did all that was 
necessary in that particular. The hides of 
the wapiti, moose and deer made a much 
softer leather after being dressed and 
smoked than that of the buffalo, but were 
not so durable. In dressing the buffalo pelts 
for robes they went through the same pro- 
cess of tanning, but the hair was not re- 

In cases where the leather was required 
for ornamented apparel and trimmings it 


was dyed with different roots and clays. 
When this coloured leather was em- 
broidered with quills from the porcupine, 
and beaded, and decorated with shells, it 
could be employed in making picturesque 
and effective garments. As the Indians 
were all very fond of gay colours, and used 
them in artistic combinations, they pre- 
sented when dressed in their best a barbaric 
and brilliant spectacle. 

They also made use of the dyes which 
they obtained from the roots of different 
shrubs and plants, in ornamenting their 
tepees or wigwams and in painting upon 
them the notable events in the careers of 
their owners. 

Every Indian of note drew and coloured 
the form of his guardian spirit or Pow- 
wah-kun on different parts of his tepee or 
wigwam. In some cases this form or figure 
would occupy almost a quarter of the space, 
and around it would be grouped crude 
drawings illustrating the history of the In- 
dian, principally events in his career as a 
warrior. These adventures were supposed 
to have called for great daring and courage, 


and the illustrations or drawings were a 
silent but effective way of showing what 
manner of man the Indian was. It was an 
easy matter for a tactful visitor to make a 
remark which would lead the conversation 
to his host's many deeds of bravery. Once 
that topic was introduced one could spend 
hours listening to some interesting remin- 
iscences. And the introduction of the sub- 
ject was taken as a mark of courtesy and 
appreciation on the part of the visitor. 

The Indians preserved every bit of the 
flesh of the buffalo, and though this was a 
very simple process it was nevertheless a 
wonderfully effective one. If during the 
very hottest part of the summer the Indians 
killed ten, twenty or even many more 
buffalo, not a pound of flesh was allowed to 
spoil. The bones were also crushed, and all 
the marrow fat extracted from them. This 
was done by boiling the bones in sufficient 
water to cover them, and as the marrow or 
grease rose to the surface it was carefully 
skimmed off and poured into the bladder 
of the buffalo after it had been thoroughly 
washed and cleaned. This fat was eaten 


with " pounded meat," and was also used 
in the making of pemmican. 

The flesh of the buffalo was cut off the 
bones and sliced into very thin layers by 
the Indian women, every woman in the 
band taking part in this work when neces- 
sary. After being cut as thin as possible 
into sheets ( often measuring twenty-four by 
thirty-six inches), the meat was dried by 
being hung on a scaffolding of poles erected 
over a fire which was kept burning until 
the drying and smoking process was accom- 
plished. This fire together with the intense 
rays of the sun quickly dried the meat, 
which was turned frequently to allow of an 
even distribution of heat and smoke, both 
being necessary for its complete preserva- 
tion. This was the way they made " dried 
meat," and in this form it could be kept for 
years, retaining all its nourishment. 

When this was to be converted into 
" pounded meat " for pemmican, etc., it was 
placed on parchment hides, and with a flail 
pounded into a fine powder. For pemmi- 
can the Indians would mix into this 
"pounded meat" sufficient marrow fat to 


form the whole into the consistency re- 
quired for packing. This resembled flour 
" shortened " for " puff paste ;" the colour 
of it was a yellowish brown. In this form 
it was packed very tightly into strong 
parchment bags of a uniform size, which 
were sewn up with thread made of sinew, 
which was also obtained from the buffalo. 

An inferior grade of pemmican was made 
by using coarser " pounded meat," together 
with " drippings " made of the rendered fat 
of the animal. 

The Indians also made a very fine pem- 
mican with the " pounded meat," marrow 
fat, and dried fruits, such as the saska- 
toomin (a blueberry) and crushed choke- 

The favorite part of the buffalo flesh was 
that cut off the " boss " or " hump." The 
meat was cut into small pieces, then smoked 
and dried in the usual way. In this form 
it was called " chee-sa-wa-nah," and was 

The tongue of the buffalo was dried in 
the same way, and could be kept for years 
in any climate without losing its flavor. 


The buffalo sinew which the Indians used 
for sewing their garments and wigwams, 
for making strings for their bows, etc., was 
taken from the shoulder blade and back 
part of the animal. It was very carefully 
cut out, all the flesh scraped off, then it was 
dried, after which it was ready for use. 



The scalp -lock Bravery in war Reckless daring in 
hunting Endurance of pain Akoose and his 
hundred-mile race Courage of women. 

THE courage and daring of the Indians 
has often been discussed, and usually very 
much to their disadvantage; but anyone 
knowing them well would never question 
their bravery. 

The Indians of our Western Provinces 
always wore in a plait a small portion of 
their hair, gathered from a spot at the 
crown of the head, about the size of a silver 
dollar. Many may have noticed this 
peculiar style of hair-dressing, yet may 
never have understood its significance. To 
wear it was a sign of bravery, for there it 
fluttered in the sight of the foe, inciting him 
to closest combat for the possession of this 
proud crest. Naturally an Indian consid- 
ered it a grave misfortune to lose his scalp, 
but it was a greater disgrace not to have 
the scalp-lock ready from the day he was 


able to take part in any fighting. The 
scalp-lock was also very much ornamented. 
After being separated from the rest of the 
hair, the lock was plaited and twined 
around with strips of fur, preferably otter, 
ermine, mink or beaver, and then decorated 
with beads or porcupine quills. Very often 
a shell or small brass disc would be 
slipped over the plait and fastened securely 
against the head. In war time the scalp- 
lock was very conspicuous by its decora- 
tion, and was worn in that fashion as a 
special incitement to the foe. During the 
dangers and excitement of forays or battles 
they never showed an atom of fear. They 
made ideal scouts ; and that alone called for 
great bravery and courage. One has often 
heard of small expeditions led by certain 
Indians accomplishing wonderful feats of 
bravery, and defeating overwhelmingly 
larger numbers of the enemy, returning 
with scores of horses in triumph to their 
friends. These raids were often the result of 
trivial bets between certain members of the 
band, but, in the event, they furnished evi- 
dence of the stuff the Indian was made of. 



That they had no fear of death, but in- 
deed, often seemed to court it, may in a 
measure be accounted for by their ideas of 
the life beyond ; this earthly life being con- 
sidered only as of short duration, and at 
best full of trials and sorrows, while the 
life in the Happy Hunting Grounds was 
supposed to be perfect, with no enemies to 
fight, no parting from loved ones, game in 
abundance, and never any fear of famine. 

The courage displayed at the time of the 
Sun Dance, when they endured cruel self- 
inflicted tortures, is another indication of 
bravery. Where else could one find so 
many candidates for such a test of courage 
and endurance as among these Indians? 

Before closing this subject mention must 
be made of their wonderfully heroic endur- 
ance of pain. One can easily imagine what 
this must have been when years ago they 
suffered so often from broken limbs. This 
was only too common an occurrence in the 
days when they hunted the buffalo over the 
prairies. Mounted upon their fleet-footed 
ponies, racing after their game, it very 
often happened that both rider and pony 



would be laid low by the latter stepping 
into a badger's hole, or other sudden de- 
pression in the ground. Though the In- 
dians were splendid riders, and their ponies 
wonderfully clever in avoiding these holes, 
the excitement of the chase made it almost 
impossible for the horse to keep clear of all 
such pitfalls, and the rider, intent on taking 
aim at a buffalo, would perhaps be forgetful 
of the dangers of riding on the prairies, and 
thus the two would often be thrown to the 
hard ground with disastrous results to 
both. In the days when the killing was 
done with bow and arrow and spear, it was 
bad enough when the rider was not hurled 
among the buffalo; if an Indian was 
thrown he usually fell among the herd, and 
was rescued with difficulty by his com- 
panions, and often not before he had sus- 
tained serious injuries. These wounds, 
abrasions, or fractures were bandaged up 
by some of the Indians, very seldom by the 
medicine men, who were not, as a rule, very 
proficient in surgery. The poor Indians 
would suffer greatly from these broken 
limbs and the rough treatment which was 


intended to repair them, more especially 
during the heat of summer, but they en- 
dured all the pain and discomfort with 
great fortitude; in fact, with never a mur- 
mur or sound of complaint. And in all 
other cases of suffering they showed the 
same silent and uncomplaining patience. 

They also displayed great endurance 
when running after game on foot. Many 
Indians in the old days did not possess a 
horse or pony of any description, so would 
have to depend upon their own fleetness of 
foot to catch up with the buffalo or deer. 
This meant running for hours at a time, 
no mean feat, over prairie covered by 
a heavy growth of grass, which grew to 
enormous height on the plains, but which 
also helped to conceal the Indian so that he 
was often enabled to approach to within 
shooting distance of his game. This was 
often done at a time when the killing 
of a few buffalo or deer meant the saving 
of their families from starvation, perhaps 
after days of necessary fasting, which 
would, of course, test their strength as well 
as powers of endurance. 


There is at the present time an Indian, 
Akoose, at the Crooked Lakes Agency in 
Saskatchewan, on Sakimay's (Mosquito) 
Eeserve, who in the year 1884 ran after 
seven jumping deer from Moose Mountain 
to a point where the present agency build- 
ings at Crooked Lakes stand. He had ex- 
hausted his ammunition at Moose Moun- 
tain, and the only place where he could ob- 
tain a further supply was at the Hudson's 
Bay Company's post on the reserve. Here 
he got more powder and ball for an old- 
fashioned but highly prized muzzle-loading 
gun, and killed all the deer, after a run of 
nearly a hundred miles. This Indian comes 
of a well known family of runners and 
hunters; his father being one of the very 
oldest Indians alive, at this time (1907) 
aged 102. Qui-witch is a name well known 
to the past two generations, as its possessor 
was one of the bravest Indians, and has 
seen many wonderful changes on the west- 
ern prairies. He is a remarkably intelli- 
gent old man, and though he has suffered 
complete loss of eyesight, is most inter- 
ested in all things concerning the welfare 


of his fellow Indians. His sons were brave 
men in the days of their warfare with the 
Blackfoot and other nations, and were 
handsome specimens of the Saulteaux. 

Many such personal examples might be 
cited in support of the courage and endur- 
ance of the Indians. Piapot's name should 
be mentioned as a brave warrior ; he was of 
Cree and Assiniboine extraction. Muscow- 
petung (Saulteaux) is another old Indian 
whose name was always spoken when brave 
men were named. Kak-keeg-ca-way (Voice 
of an Eagle) is another valiant Saulteaux. 
These Indians and many others are still 
alive, whose deeds of bravery, courage and 
endurance would inspire even a coward to 
do things he never would have dreamed of 
doing without their example. In another 
chapter will be found some particular anec- 
dotes of the courageous dead, the great 
Koo-min-ah-koush, the intrepid Yellow- 
Head, and the cunning Chim-ass-couse. 

The women of these tribes were also very 
brave, and did much to help their husbands, 
brothers and friends to victory when hard 
pressed by the enemy. Many women, in- 


deed, took part in these fights when the men 
were outnumbered, and by their daring and 
courage often turned the tide in their 
favour. But the women never spoke of any 
such exploits, and were ever most modest 
as to their acts of bravery and cour- 
age in rendering assistance when necessity 
compelled them to do so. 

To see the many privations and hard- 
ships of the Indian women and children 
even at the present day is to realize Bow 
much they must formerly have suffered in 
times of sickness. But they endured every- 
thing most uncomplainingly, and often 
had to travel with the band when they 
should have been resting. Usually, if there 
was any sickness in the camp travelling 
was only done under compulsion. If they 
were being hard pressed by their enemies 
they would have to keep moving in the 
hope of falling in with friendly tribes. 
Upon these occasions the sick and wounded 
would have to be moved too, and with their 
crude modes of transportation these forced 
marches were most painful and trying 
ordeals for the sufferers, whose endurance 
was truly heroic. 



Transportation The travois Beautiful camping 
places Making a wigwam Tea and Labrador 
tea A strange tea-chest Painting the tepee 
Women's work Story-telling Bead work 
An ideal existence Fire-making Cooking. 

the least interesting feature of the 
life of the Indian was his mode of travel- 
ing. They took the greatest possible com- 
fort out of the camper's life, and had all its 
procedure reduced to a science. They could 
" pitch camp " in a few minutes and be on 
their way to some other place in a wonder- 
fully short space of time. In camping and 
travelling they had a place for everything 
and everything was always in its place, and 
this, more than anything else, made for 
comfort and dispatch. They had the happy 
knack of making the best use of everything, 
and this quality helped them in no small 
degree when inconveniences were unexpect- 
edly met with. Anyone who had " camped 
out " and travelled to any extent in the 


West before railways and stages had ap- 
peared would recall this resourcefulness 
and quick adaptability. 

Years ago the Indians did not have in 
their equipment the historic " Bed River 
cart," which in after years was to them 
such a necessary conveyance. In its place 
they used the " travois," a conveyance 
formed of two poles, very light and strong, 
tied together a foot or two from the smaller 
ends with buffalo thongs, in such a way as 
to form a saddle which rested upon the 
horse's back. Two cross-pieces, about 
three feet apart, towards the larger ends of 
the poles, gave firmness to the contrivance, 
and between these lower pieces would be 
slung a shallow basket made of thongs or 
rawhide, which could bear a weight of two 
hundred pounds or more. 

Upon this they would pack their wig- 
wams and other possessions, the basket 
being far enough from the larger ends of 
the poles to prevent its touching the 
ground when loaded to its full capacity. A 
much smaller " travois " was made for their 
dogs to haul, these useful little animals be- 


ing as a rule the only ones used by the older 
women of the tribes, as they were more 
easily managed than the ponies. The dogs 
were the primitive travois-bearers, and even 
after the introduction of ponies were often 
used by a whole band to convey their goods 
and chattels after a successful raid by an 
enemy, who might perhaps have captured 
every pony they possessed. 

Although the invention of the travois is 
obvious when the conditions under which 
it was evolved are considered, yet it was 
nicely adapted for its various functions, 
which are thus described by Mr. Geo. B. 
Grinnell :* "On the platform of the travois 
are carried loads of meat from the buffalo- 
killing, the various possessions of the owner 
in moving camp from place to place, a sick 
or wounded individual too weak to ride, and 
sometimes a wickerwork cage shaped like 
a sweat lodge, in which are confined small 
children, or even a family of tiny puppies 
with their mother. Things that cannot be 
conveniently packed on the backs of the 

* "The Story of the Indian," by Geo. B. Grinnell, 



horses are put upon the travois. Some- 
times the travois bears the dead, for with 
certain tribes it is essential to the future 
welfare of the departed that they be 
brought back to the tribal burying-ground 
near the village." 

When the Indian travelled at leisure he 
always chose some particularly picturesque 
place in which to camp ; and the young men, 
who generally rode ahead of the band, were 
always on the watch for a suitable camp- 
ing-ground. If, with its other attractions, 
it had good water, the band would stay there 
for weeks at a time, sending out hunting and 
raiding expeditions. Here they would stay 
and put up provisions for the winter; the 
men hunted the buffalo while the women 
made dried meat, pemmican and marrow 
fat, and dressed or tanned the hides into 
leather and robes. If the hunt was success- 
ful, the women would make new tepees or 
wigwams, and this was very interesting, as 
many willing workers would offer their 
help in sewing up the skins required for the 
tents. It was customary to have a feast upon 
the completion of the work, and all the 


women of the band were bidden to this cere- 
mony; no men ever attended. In mak- 
ing the wigwam, a level piece of ground 
would be found, and on this would be spread 
the skins ; as many as twenty were required 
for a large tent, but ten, twelve and fourteen 
skins went to make the ordinary size. While 
the skins were being picked over and spread 
out on the ground, the expert woman who 
did the cutting-out was busily engaged 
sharpening her knife, in fact four or five 
knives would be sharpened in readiness for 
use, as one after the other became dulled by 
cutting the thick leather. While all this 
was going on a group of the women would 
be making the sinews for the sewing, so that 
once the actual work began, it took only a 
few hours for the wigwam to be finished. 
The sewing was done on each seam or piece 
as it lay on the ground, necessitating the 
sewer doing her work in a stooping position. 
None of the threads of sinew were cut off, 
even if a piece ten inches long was left 
over. If the ends of the sinews were 
cut off the occupants of the wigwam were 
supposed to become very stingy and mean 


in all their dealings, and indeed might 
actually want for the common necessities 
of life before the tent was worn out. 

After all the sewing and trimming, such 
as fringes, etc., were finished, the women 
were asked to partake of refreshments in 
the form of fine dried meat, pemmican, chee- 
sa-wa-nah, and smoked tongue and tea. 
This latter beverage was obtained years ago 
from the swamp-shrub known as Labrador 
Tea (Ledum latifolium). This the Indians 
called Medicine water (Mus-kic-kee-wa-poo) 
and it certainly tasted like medicine. They 
liked the flavour of it very much, however, 
and as it was not easily obtained, appre- 
ciated it when they got it. The old women 
of the band generally collected this plant 
from swamps in parts of the country where 
there were pine forests, and after gathering 
it, would dry it carefully, and pack it in air- 
tight parchment bags. These bags were 
in fact the complete skin of an unborn calf 
obtained from a buffalo cow that had been 
killed. The skin was taken from the animal 
with only one incision, through which every 
part of the body was drawn. This small 


hide was washed and during the drying was 
rubbed soft, without undergoing any of the 
usual process of tanning or dressing given 
the larger skins. Being completely air-tight, 
it answered admirably the purpose for which 
it was used. Many an old woman took 
pride in having two or three of these skins 
packed so full of this tea that they re- 
sembled the original shape of the little 
animal. There are a few of these bags still 
to be seen, which their owners prize very 

The decorating or painting of the tepees 
was always done by the braves, who took 
great pride in the crude drawings on the 
white leather, illustrating the principal 
deeds of bravery and prowess to the credit 
of their owners. Sometimes the illustra- 
tions would refer to an especially successful 
hunting expedition, perhaps after days of 
fasting by the band, which made it an 
event of no small importance in the Indian's 
career. The principal drawing, however, 
was always of the dream (Pow-wah- 
kun) or guardian spirit; this always occu- 
pied a most prominent place among the 


drawings and was also traced over the door 
of the tent. 

These tepees or wigwams were most com- 
fortable and roomy, and could be kept fresh 
and clean; the opening at the top of the 
doorway caused a constant current of air, 
and they were very healthy places of abode. 
In rainy weather and also in the autumn 
and winter, fires were kept burning in the 
very centre, the smoke escaping through 
the opening at the top by means of the ears 
or wings of the tent, a sort of rude chim- 
ney-jack which the occupants very easily 
arranged, with poles that were stuck into 
the small pockets of the ears. These ears 
acted as a shield against the breezes and 
permitted the smoke to escape. In warm 
weather, the eaves of the tent were always 
drawn up a foot or two from the ground, 
causing a constant circulation of pure air. 
No Indian ever kept his wigwam standing 
on one place for more than a few days at a 
time, as the grass was soon trampled into 
the earth, giving an untidy appearance to 
the interior of the tent; so, to avoid this, 
they kept constantly changing the tepee 
7 97 


from one place to another, within a certain 

Having secured a pleasant camping- 
ground, the Indians would spend their time 
in many useful ways. When the men were 
not off on a hunting expedition they would 
be busy mending harness, or making new 
sets; repairing their saddles, which were 
made of buffalo leather; or years ago, be- 
fore they had rifles and guns, in making 
bows and arrows. These required the 
greatest amount of labour, as in their 
strength lay all safety and sustenance. The 
bows were made from the cherry tree, which 
is strong and supple, and the arrows from 
the saskatoomin tree. 

While the men were thus engaged, the 
women were busily employed in the making 
of dried meat, pemmican and marrow fat, in 
tanning and dressing the leather, making 
moccasins, and other sewing. They also car- 
ried all the water and wood they used. One 
must bear in mind, however, that the carry- 
ing of wood was no great hardship, as they 
used very little fuel during the summer, 
especially on the prairies, where they had 


only scrub and willow to burn, often indeed 
not even these ; then they had to use the dry 
buff alo " chips " (excrement). And during 
the winter weather, if the women had to 
haul, or carry on their backs, any wood, it 
was always of the very lightest kind, and 
they never overburdened themselves. The 
heavy logs required during the cold weather 
were drawn to the camp by horses ; and the 
younger men did all the chopping and 
cutting. Of course, there were times when 
this work had to be done by the women, 
when the men were away on their hunting 
trips, but only when the supply provided 
by the men was exhausted. The popular 
idea of the poor Indian woman doing all the 
hard work has too often been overdrawn. 

In the evening, when their day's work was 
done, they exchanged visits, and over the 
camp fires many interesting reminiscences 
were recalled and discussed by ,the men, the 
women being at such times very attentive 
listeners. One sometimes met with a par- 
ticularly interesting old woman whose life 
had been passed in keen observation of all 
the triumphs and trials of her band, who 


in a quiet and gentle manner would recount 
the many events she had lived through. 
These were at times most thrilling, relat- 
ing to narrow escapes from the merciless 
clutches of their enemies, the Blackfoot and 
other nations, who were most cruel and 
powerful adversaries, and who from all 
accounts made life most precarious for the 
Crees, Saulteaux and Assiniboines. During 
the summer no stories founded on fiction 
were ever told; the Indians, with their in- 
tensely superstitious natures, believing that 
if any " fairy " tales were told during that 
season when they were supposed to use all 
their time to the very best advantage, the 
narrator would have his or her life destroyed 
by the lizard, which would suck all his 
blood. The Indians very naturally were in 
terror of this little reptile, which was never 
actually known to have been the cause of 
any loss of life among them ; but they assert 
as a reason for this that no Indian ever gave 
it an opportunity to put to the test its 
evil powers. So in the long summer even- 
ings, only actual happenings in their lives 
were recited. The younger women of the 


band would at that time of the day do fancy- 
work, which they looked upon as a recrea- 
tion. And in those days every brave had at 
least one costume covered with porcupine 
quill-work, and with gaily coloured seed 
beads when these were obtainable. 

The Indian women displayed much art- 
istic taste in their fancy-work. Their de- 
signs were perfect as to detail. The bead 
and quill work done upon finely dressed 
deerskin, or even soft buffalo skin, was 
almost everlasting, the stitching and 
threading of the beads and quills being 
done with fine sinew. The garments 
were unfortunately subjected to the 
very hardest wear, in all kinds of 
weather, during the four seasons. But 
even under these conditions they lasted 
for a very long time. The moccasins were 
always finished with a partially softened 
parchment sole, which added months to 
their wearing qualities. 

Such an encampment amid beautiful 
scenery, astir with prosperous and con- 
tented Indians, must have been a ifiost 
striking illustration of the Indians' own 


idea of the wonderful love and care be- 
stowed upon them by the Great Spirit. It 
is no wonder that they believed so fully in 
His care and keeping. 

There are quite a number of Indians still 
living in our Western Provinces who re- 
member the time when they enjoyed just 
such an existence, and whose recollections 
are most interesting. 

The young children played their games 
amidst these lovely scenes; the little babes, 
tied up in the mossbag or Indian cradle, 
awoke from their slumbers and looked 
upon the joyous and happy lives of their 
brothers and sisters, and grew up to ap- 
preciate everything which made life so 
pleasant an existence for their tribe. From 
the first they were taught how much they 
owed to the Great Spirit for all His bless- 
ings. They wanted for nothing. If there 
were times when the game was scarce and 
food insufficient they willingly endured 
privations, never murmuring; satisfied to 
hunt patiently until the Great Spirit again 
sent the buffalo and deer to appease their 



They had many trials and difficulties in 
their travels, but these they made light of, 
and did their best to make themselves com- 
fortable, no matter what might betide. 

Perhaps they found nothing so hard in 
their life of travel from place to place as 
the making of fire. When camping for any 
length of time in a certain spot, one or two 
fires were kept constantly alight. In the 
first place they started the fire by friction. 
Some Indians, however, were in possession 
of flint stones. By holding one small flint 
firmly in each hand between the fingers and 
thumb, and against the stone in the left 
hand holding a small piece of punk or 
touchwood (a soft white or yellow sub- 
stance into which wood is converted by the 
action of certain fungi, as Polyporus 
igniarius), and by striking these with the 
piece of flint held in the right hand a spark 
would be kindled which would cause the 
touchwood to catch fire and burn. With 
this and some dry sticks they would soon 
start a blaze. If they had no flint stones 
they had to resort to a much more difficult 
and tedious way of lighting their fires. 


This was done by means of a hardwood 
stick, hollowed out a few inches deep 
at one end, the other end being firmly 
planted in the ground. In this hollow cup 
the Indian would place a small quantity of 
powdered dry grass or touchwood; then 
with another and much smaller hardwood 
stick, held between the palms of his hands, 
he would by rotating it create a sufficiently 
high temperature to ignite the touchwood. 
Sometimes two or three Indians would be 
kept busy twirling the stick in the hollowed- 
out bowl before a fire could be started. 
This was usually the case during rainy 
weather. As soon as one .Indian became 
tired out another would by placing his 
hands on the stick above or below the hands 
of the previous Indian, keep up the friction 
without a moment's pause. As the Indians 
had such difficulty in starting a fire, to the 
older and more responsible women would 
be entrusted the task of keeping it alight. 
And when moving from one place to an- 
other these old women would carry a 
lighted torch of wood, always watching to 
see that the spark did not die out. As soon 


as the camping-place was found they 
started one fire at least, from which the 
rest of the band easily lighted as many as 
they required. 

Before the white man brought them 
kettles in which to cook they prepared their 
food by direct contact with the fire. The 
buffalo meat was ready for consumption 
after it had been dried, as the fires under- 
neath the scaffold upon which it was placed 
served the purpose of cooking the meat as 
well as of drying and smoking it. When 
the Indians wished to boil water, they 
would dig a round hole in the ground, say 
ten or more inches in depth and six or 
eight inches in diameter, and into this they 
would fit a piece of coarse parchment or 
rawhide, securing it firmly around the top 
or outside part of the hole by small wooden 
spikes or pegs. This hole lined with the 
hide was water-tight, and after being filled 
with water several stones, heated as hot as 
possible, were dropped into it, one after 
another, until the water was brought to the 
boiling point. It was a very slow method, 
and was only used when steeping tea, boil- 


ing eggs or preparing food which required 
to be cooked but a short time. 

Another method of cooking eggs, which 
they claim was a very good one, was by 
taking a short piece of a small green poplar 
tree, and carefully slipping off the bark, 
into which they put as many eggs as it 
would hold, or as many as they desired to 
cook. After building a fire they would bury 
this piece of bark under the hot ashes ; but 
before doing so would close either end by 
a bit of the tree. The heat from the ashes 
soon cooked the eggs. 

The few earthen vessels they did possess 
were usually taken from some of their ene- 
mies to the south, who seemed to have many 
more utensils than our Western Indians, 
and these were much prized as spoils of 



Signs and wonders The naming of children Pecu- 
liar reticence as to names The alternative 
Premonitions and second-sight The Northern 
Lights Ventriloquism. 

THE Indians were most superstitious and 
were always seeing signs and omens 
in everything around them. This trait 
accounts for many of their peculiarities. 
Their names were given to them as signifi- 
cant of some sign or happening which had 
been taken as a warning. And if in after 
years some other important event happened 
in their lives which they could convert into 
a sign it would be a reason for changing 
the name given to them by their sponsors. 

The naming of their children was a very 
solemn ceremony, and though very few took 
part in it, the superstitions attached to the 
names given the boy or girl made it a very 
impressive occasion. The Indian who was 
asked to name the child would give the mat- 
ter a great deal of thought, and be more 


observant than usual to the happenings of 
everyday life. If a storm should come up, 
and perhaps be accompanied by violent 
thunder and lightning, the name of the 
child would have some reference to this, 
such as " Four Sky Thunder " and " Light- 
ning Shining out of the Clouds." If some 
particular bird had flown over the camp 
before the storm broke, the bird's name 
would be included with the others, such as 
"The Black Hawk's Warning" or "The 
Bird who Comes before the Storm." In 
after life the hawk was supposed to have a 
special guardianship over the person who 
bore its name. In the same way the 
thunder or lightning was looked to for pro- 
tection from harm by the Indian whose 
name was in any way associated with them. 
These names, given to him by some old and 
respected member of the band, very often 
indeed by the medicine men or women, the 
Indian was never supposed to repeat. The 
mentioning of his own name, even most 
solemnly, was supposed to imply disrespect 
to the powers of guardianship exercised by 
the name, as well as being an unpardonable 


slight to the old Indian who gave it. It is 
only in recent years that any Indian could 
be persuaded to mention his or her name, 
It was, long ago, a most difficult task to 
obtain an Indian's name. He would never 
mention it himself, nor would his wife, and 
his children would not dare to do so. But 
the Indian or his wife would direct a per- 
son to some one else who would tell his 
name, and even then one might require to 
use much diplomacy before getting the de- 
sired information. This naming of an In- 
dian after some bird or animal, or from the 
elements, gave him his guardian or dream, 
Pow-wah-kun. And one of the prime 
reasons for never mentioning his name was 
that these Pow-wah-kunah were supposed 
to be most sensitive, and were likely to do 
much more harm than good, if they were 
ever shown any disrespect by their wards. 

It often happened, however, that in after 
years a particularly noteworthy occurrence 
in an Indian's life would cause him to 
adopt some other name, and this name he 
could speak of at any time without fear of 
ill consequences. For instance, an Indian 


whose name given by his sponsors was 
" Star Blanket " might perhaps have been 
caught with one or two others in some very 
trying position, such as being surrounded 
by their enemies in some isolated place. 
The foe may have come upon them at day- 
break and " Star Blanket " may have been 
the first to give the alarm, and in calling 
upon his friends to do their best, he might 
in looking up to the sky see an eagle, and 
would perhaps say, " If that eagle will help 
us by his strength and fleetness to escape I 
will take his name, and like him be strong 
and brave." Then, if they made good their 
escape that Indian would call himself 
"Kak-keeg-ca-way," meaning "The voice of 
an eagle." This incident is mentioned as 
an illustration, and, being an actual fact, is 
a fair example of the way an Indian would 
change his name late in life, and be known 
by it alone, while his first name, or the one 
given to him by his sponsors, would be re- 
membered only by a very few. And the few 
who did remember it might by their rela- 
tionship to him be in the position of never 
daring to mention it, for fear of some evil 


results to its possessor. One advantage of 
this custom of taking a new name later in 
life was the fact that the Indian's wife and 
relations could call him by it, and thus do 
away with a great deal of unnecessary con- 
fusion. If anyone wished, for instance, to 
find out to whom belonged some stray pony, 
it was most confusing to be told that it be- 
longed to " Four Sky Thunder's sister's son- 
in-law's brother," this being the nearest 
approach to pronouncing a name by the 
average Indian. Whereas if the owner of 
the pony had adopted some name himself, 
one might be told that the pony belonged to 
"The voice of an Eagle." 

In the naming of places the Indians often 
exercised their inventiveness, and fre- 
quently with highly poetical result. In a 
word or phrase they would describe the out- 
standing features of the landscape or com- 
memorate some event or accident which 
occurred on the spot. 

The most appropriate place-names in 
Canada are Indian names, and to assign to 
each and all their significance would be an 
attractive task. 



There is much superstition and romance 
contained in the name given by the Crees 
and Saulteaux to the beautiful Qu'Appelle 
Valley. The Indians named this valley Ka- 
ta-pwa-wee-seeppi (The Calling Kiver) be- 
cause of the wonderful echoes heard along 
its banks and over its lakes, which they 
believe to be the voices of their friends and 
former companions in the Happy Hunting 
Grounds. The old Indians told many 
legends of the effects produced and the 
warnings given them by this echo. Pro- 
bably none appealed more to their love of 
romance than the following: 

Once many, many years ago there lived a 
chief of the Cree nation, much beloved by 
his tribe for his kindness and thoughtful- 
ness and his good and wise counsel in time 
of need. This chief had an only son who 
was very brave, and ever first to volunteer 
for duty in scouting expeditions and raids. 
On one occasion the little band of scouts of 
which this young man, who was called First 
Son, was a member, was surrounded by an 
overwhelming number of Blackfeet, and 
most of the brave band were slain or 

From a. painting by Edmund Morris. 



wounded; among the latter was First Son. 
After the survivors had made their escape 
ith the wounded they found that their 
eader would never reach the main camp 
in the valley, as his wounds were fatal, and 
one calm night in the month of June, which 
the Indians called the " Month of Young 
Birds," the chiefs son started on his long 
journey to the Happy Hunting Grounds. 
As he was leaving them he bade his compan- 
ions farewell, and told them not to grieve 
for him, because he was not going alone, for 
the young Cree maiden who was to have 
been his bride on his return to camp would 
accompany him. His companions left his 
body, which was wrapped in his beaded 
leather clothing, upon a scaffold, and with 
sorrowing hearts returned to the main camp 
in the Calling Valley. 

After breaking their sad news to the 
tribe, and repeating the last words of First 
Son, they were told that on the very night 
upon which First Son had passed away, the 
maiden who had been watching for him in- 
sisted that she heard her lover's voice call- 
ing to her across the lake; she had taken 
8 113 


her little birch-bark canoe, paddled out to 
meet him, and had never been seen or heard 
of since. 

The Indians imagine that in the echoes of 
the Qu'Appelle Valley her voice and the 
voice of her lover may be heard, mingled 
with those of others of the tribe who have 
passed to the Happy Hunting Grounds. 

In this valley the " Barrier " is so called 
from the fact that here the Indians had 
built a barrier of stone to keep back the 
fish, and so sure were they of catching fish 
at this spot that they gathered salt to 
season them from the shores of the saline 
swamps which they passed on their journey 
towards the Barrier, fish being the only 
food that they could not eat without salt. 

The Saskatchewan the Indians called 
" Kis-siskatchewan," which means Fast 
Running Stream, and Old Wives Lake was 
so called from the sad fate which befell 
three old Indian women, who with others of 
their tribe were being pursued by Black- 
feet, and lost their lives while trying to 
cross the lake before they reached the ford. 
Ever since then, the Indians say, on the 



anniversary of this event they can hear the 
old women calling for help, and where the 
lake is very shallow they may be seen strug- 
gling in the water. The spot where the 
Qu'Appelle Valley joins the valley of the 
Assiniboine, the Crees and Salteaux called 
Stony River, for here they first caught sight 
of the Assiniboines or Stony Sioux. 

The Indians, who were always looking 
for signs, very naturally believed firmly in 
the spirit world, and had many experiences 
to relate of visits and warnings from their 
friends who had preceded them to the 
Happy Hunting Grounds. So firmly did 
they believe in these that many an expedi- 
tion would be abandoned because some 
member of the band had had a warning of 
disaster overtaking the party. These were 
especially acted upon years ago when they 
were at war with other tribes. The warn- 
ings usually came to them in dreams, and 
they never hesitated to follow the advice 
of the Indian who told them his dream. 

In many cases a relief party would be 
despatched to reinforce some expedition, 
on account of these premonitions; and 


they believed that but for such relief some 
calamity would have befallen their friends. 
There were times when this help came at a 
critical moment, which strengthened their 
faith in these warnings. 

Not every Indian was enlightened by 
these particular warnings, but one or two in 
the band were supposed to be in some secret 
communication with the spirit world, and 
the word of these was taken as final when 
they predicted any coming event, either of 
good or bad fortune, to the members of their 
band. And in speaking of these Indians 
the others would say, " You know he is very 
wonderful, and not like the rest of us; the 
spirits commune with him. He can see far 
ahead." These spirits were also spoken of 
by them as dreams, or Pow-wah-kunah. 
Though every Indian of note had a Pow- 
wah-kun, they were not all honoured by 
this supposed peculiar intercourse with 

The Indians also believed that in the re- 
flection of the Northern Lights, or Aurora 
Borealis, was seen the dancing of the spirits 
of their departed ones. No Indian would 


whistle during the reflection of these lights, 
as some of the spirits might be tempted to 
return to earth if their friends whistled for 
them; and the return to this earth meant 
only trials and hardships for them. Whis- 
tling was believed to be the only way of 
communicating with the spirits of departed 
friends appearing in the aurora. It often 
happened after some victory of the Indians 
over an enemy that there would be a strong 
reflection of these Northern Lights, and 
this, they believed, was a dance of the 
spirits to celebrate the victory. 

There have been among the Indians a few 
who practised the art of ventriloquism, and 
these were looked upon as being in very 
close communion with their Pow-wah-kunah. 
They would make the other Indians believe 
all manner of impossible things, and occa- 
sionally worked upon their superstitious 
natures to an astonishing degree. The last 
Indian known to have practised this art 
was an old Cree chief, " Loud Voice." This 
name was adopted by the Indian himself 
as soon as he discovered the fact of his 
being able to speak in this peculiar way. 


The Indians, not knowing anything of this 
art, very naturally looked upon " Loud 
Voice " as being a most wonderful old In- 
dian. The old man never practised this 
way of speaking except during a thunder- 
storm, which added greatly to the uncanny 
effect of both storm and voice. He was a 
medicine man into the bargain, and though 
not a very successful one in the art of heal- 
ing, was certainly more than successful in 
holding the respect of all the Indians of 
his band. But it must be said to his credit 
that he never used his powers to intimidate 
any of his followers, nor indeed any of the 
other Indians. But Ka-kee-she-way (Loud 
Voice) was a name to conjure with a few 
years ago among the Indian tribes, as he 
was known by hearsay, if not personally, 
to them all. This old Indian died at the 
Crooked Lakes Agency some years ago. 



The love of children Methods of training Polygamy 
Natural sensitiveness and inherent dignity 
Indian oratory Poetry and satire. 

INDIANS are of a very affectionate dis- 
position, and also very undemonstrative. 
The love of their children was a particu- 
arly pathetic trait in their natures. The 
youngsters were actually adored, and con- 
sequently would impress a stranger as being 
very badly brought up. They were never 
corrected for any faults, but, up to a certain 
age, did as they pleased, when, of their own 
accord, they seemed to realize the respect 
due to their parents. This was in a mea- 
sure brought about by the way the older 
Indians treated the younger ones. No dis- 
respect to elders was tolerated, and when 
the children were supposed to have reached 
years of discretion they were soon made to 
understand this, not by their parents but 


by other relatives and friends. Conse- 
quently the parents were spared the pain 
of correcting their children. 

It was strange to note the peculiar 
change in some of these youngsters. They 
would have grown up having their own way 
in everything, and behaving generally in a 
most aggravating manner, yet a complete 
alteration would come in the course of a 
few days or weeks. This may be attributed 
to their very sensitive natures. For when a 
child was supposed, by the friends of his 
parents, to have reached the time when 
respect to his father and mother should be 
shown, he very soon was made to under- 
stand this by their treatment of him. He 
was told once or twice that he was no longer 
a baby to have everything his own way, and 
that it was quite time he should realize his 
position and try to help his father and 
mother a little more. If this advice was 
ignored, he was ignored also, and the rest 
of the band followed suit, so that the youth 
soon found the best policy was not to look 
upon himself any longer as a spoilt child. 

The Indians very seldom had large fam- 


ilies, the average number being five or six in 
a family. 

There surely never were any happier 
or healthier babies than the little Indian 
" Awassisah." They actually appeared like 
little voyageurs from the first days of their 
existence, so sturdy and jolly were they. 
Shortly after birth the baby was tied up in 
the moss-bag, with its pliant wrappings of 
finely-dressed deerskin and quantities of 
soft moss, and a stiff leather support for 
the child's back. They were snug and com- 
fortable in these bags, and safe from injury ; 
and in the winter-time they were protected 
from the extreme cold by rabbit-skins. 

The baby in the moss-bag made a compact 
bundle for the mother to carry on her back, 
wrapped in her blanket or shawl. 

The moss which the Indian women used 
to wrap around the lower extremities of 
their babies was gathered from swampy 
lands in the vicinity of the spruce forests. 
When first picked it was in a variety of 
green shades, but after being dried it took 
on a peculiar tone of creamy brown and 
was a most hygienic wrapping for the child. 


Some of the Indian women used a cradle 
to tie their babies in, and in the old days 
the women who had these were looked upon 
as possessing a luxury. The appearance 
of this cradle is familiar to everyone. No 
contrivance could so well meet the needs of 
the case. It formed a rigid, compact frame 
in which the child was held in safety 
through all the vicissitudes of the portage 
or trail. It could be swung on a tree or 
leaned against the wigwam, and the bow 
of wood extending above the child's head 
protected it from injury. 

When the mother wished to carry her 
child she attached a stout leather strap to 
the top part of the cradle. This strap she 
then placed either over her forehead or 
shoulders, and away she would go, while 
the babe observed the passing scene or slept 
peacefully on, as he felt inclined. 

The name " papoose " given to all Indian 
babies by the wtyite man is the Sioux word 
for baby. The Crees called a baby " Awas- 
sis," and the Saulteaux, " Appinochi." 

Years ago some of the chiefs and head- 
men had more than one wife, some having 


as many as six and even seven. It was sur- 
prising how well all these wives would 
agree. They called each other " sister," 
and might, indeed, have been sisters in so 
far as their fondness for one another was 
concerned. They divided their labours 
equally, and tried in every way to cultivate 
mutual forbearance. 

The Indians had great respect for the 
aged, and for each other. They were very 
sensitive, and had to be treated with the 
greatest tact. Many a thoughtless remark 
was taken seriously, especially in the 
case of parents, who expected their sons 
and daughters-in-law to show them high 
and perfect respect. No idle jesting was 
tolerated from them. To such an extent 
was this carried that if a person took some 
remark made by his son or daughter-in-law 
to himself he might brood over it until it 
assumed unnecessarily large proportions. 
And he would leave the band or encamp- 
ment for days and wander off by himself, 
only being appeased by an apology from 
the supposed offender. So it naturally 
fell to this person to follow his over-sensi- 


tive relative and apologize. The Indians 
as a rule spoke of their father or mother- 
in-law as " the person I respect." 

Their manner one to another was always 
most considerate, their natural dignity 
making this treatment of each other very 
easy. They made excellent listeners, and 
never interrupted each other. This was 
especially noticeable at their council meet- 
ings and feasts. Each Indian would be 
given his own time to state his ideas 
upon the subject under discussion, and 
as his remarks were made standing, 
fully three or four minutes would elapse 
after he was seated before the next In- 
dian arose to speak. If his views did 
not fall in with the others he would 
apologize, and perhaps make some jest- 
ing remark about his own stupidity, say- 
ing that of course he was known not to 
possess the brains of his friend who had just 
sat down, but if they cared to listen to him 
he would say his little say, and he trusted 
them not to ridicule him on account of his 

The Indians expressed themselves in beau- 


tiful language. Their thoughts were poeti- 
cal, and though they never made any actual 
rhymes or poems they had beautiful ex- 
pressions. This may easily be accounted 
for, as they lived so much with nature and 
saw beauty in all around them. 

They were fond of setting forth certain 
ideas by similes. For instance, one Indian, 
who is still alive and well known for his 
brilliant speeches, was once heard to say 
that he hoped the ideas he was about to ex- 
press would not be as short-lived as the 
ripples which were made by throwing a 
stone into a perfectly calm lake. When 
the stone first dropped in it caused a sharp 
disturbance which formed a distinct but 
small circle, then one after another fol- 
lowed more circles, which, though extend- 
ing much farther around than the first, did 
not leave so deep an impression, until they 
gradually lost themselves and the lake be- 
came perfectly calm again. The stone had 
been thrown in with a splash, which rip- 
pled almost over the whole surface of the 
lake, but after a few minutes there was no 
sign of it and it lay forgotten in the waters. 


Nothing ever came of it. He wished to 
speak seriously of things which concerned 
their future welfare, and hoped, if nothing 
came of his advice immediately, his words 
might bear fruit in after years and flourish. 
Let his words be as the tiny seeds which 
little birds carry away and leave in far-off 
lands. Here the seed grows as well as if it 
were on its native heath, and each year it 
brings forth fresh flowers, fruits or trees. 

This speech was made in the Salteaux 
language, and must have made a deep im- 
pression on all who heard it. The speaker 
possessed a low, musical voice which added 
greatly to the beauty of this expressive and 
poetical language. 

There were certain speakers among the 
Indians who introduced a very cutting 
satire into some of their speeches. This 
was especially marked upon one occasion 
when the Indian first quoted had made a 
particularly flattering tribute to a certain 
educational institution, which was not ap- 
preciated by the old Cree Indian who spoke 
after him. This old man was also noted 
for his powers of oratory, and perhaps felt 


slighted at not having been called on first. 
But as he has always been most truthful 
and outspoken he may have only expressed 
his true opinions after all. However, on 
first rising to his feet to speak he said he 
was very sorry all the sugar had been used 
up in sweetening the previous speaker's 
words. There was none left to sweeten his 
tongue. The Indians years ago, when 
starting off to fight with their enemy, were 
always cautioned to keep their knives 
sharp and from this came the saying, 
" May your knife always be sharp !" He 
didn't remember anyone ever having said to 
him, " May your tongue always be sharp !" 
but it was generally in that condition. 
With which introduction he began a scath- 
ing criticism of the methods employed by 
the white man to better the condition of his 

Many other examples might be quoted of 
their way of expressing themselves, but the 
foregoing will illustrate their general 



Hospitality An Indian welcome Friendly terms of 
address No beggars Decline in good manners 
Ingratiating speeches Practical jokes. 

FROM the earliest accounts of the meet- 
ings between the two races, the whites and 
the Indians, the hospitality of the latter has 
always been acknowledged. Every white 
man who came to them in friendliness found 
them most courteous and kind. When the 
Jesuit missionaries first came upon the 
Saulteaux, in 1640, they were kindly re- 
ceived. And again, years after, when Cat- 
lin spent some time among them he wrote 
most feelingly of their kind treatment of 
him. He travelled among the tribes who 
were noted for their warlike bearing, In- 
dians who never hesitated a moment to face 
their enemies in times of war, yet he was 
received most kindly and hospitably, for he 
came as a friend, not as an enemy. With 
his two guides, Catlin was entirely at their 
mercy, and had they been of the savage 


nature so many writers have made them out 
to be they would never have spared him to 
write his letters, letters that speak so highly 
of all their good qualities. 

The Indians have many phrases handed 
on for generations which show how easily 
they can express their feelings of hospi- 
tality. One of their favourite expressions 
when welcoming a stranger or a friend into 
their midst is " Ta-ta-wah," which means, 
" There is always room for you." Another 
expression when serving a visitor to a meal 
or any refreshment is " Kes-poo," meaning 
" May it satisfy you, or may it refresh you." 

They never hesitated to entertain perfect 
strangers. As an example, if some friendly, 
though strange, Indian came riding into 
their midst, he would stop quite near the 
encampment and, after unsaddling his pony, 
would go into the nearest wigwam and be 
made perfectly welcome. After silently 
shaking hands with his unknown host, who 
always said something in the nature of a 
friendly greeting, they would both fill their 
pipes and smoke for a few minutes in 
silence, then proceed to introduce them- 
9 129 


selves. The stranger was never for one 
minute made to feel that he was unwel- 
come. In a very short time as many In- 
dians as the tepee could hold would come 
in to make the acquaintance of the stranger, 
so that he would very soon feel perfectly at 
home with the whole band. 

Years ago this stranger often proved to 
be " an angel unawares," as he might bring 
the news of the approach of an enemy, 
and perhaps save the camp from complete 
destruction. But it must be said to the 
credit of the Indians that it was with no 
idea of such reward that they entertained 
strangers. It was a pleasure to show any- 
one hospitality, and when they were in a 
position to do so they never thought of 

The Indians had many friendly expres- 
sions which they were in the habit of using 
when addressing strangers. They were 
usually terms of relationship, such as " Nes- 
tah " (brother-in-law), " Enjoe-wah-mish " 
(cousin). Nothing served to put the 
stranger so much at his ease as being ad- 
dressed in this friendly way by his host and 


the other members of the band he was visit- 
ing. As a matter of fact, if a stranger be- 
longing to the same tribe came to visit any 
Indians whom he had never seen before, 
they would soon manage to trace some real 
or imaginary relationship. They trace 
their kindred to wonderfully distant 
sources, and one might almost believe that 
the whole Cree nation was related or con- 
nected in some way. This may in many 
cases have been due to the way strangers 
were addressed by their hosts. Some one 
nearly related to this stranger would come 
some months after and claim relationship 
from this source alone, and this kinship was 
acknowledged without any question. Their 
natural consideration for each other would 
not permit anyone to disclaim this relation- 
ship. In this way one can easily under- 
stand the wide inter-relationship or connec- 
tion existing among the Indians. 

Perhaps few realize how hard it is for 
our Indians to have to beg for the common 
necessities of life. They are naturally very 
proud and reserved, and among the older 
ones to beg is most humiliating. Being 


brought up to look upon everything as for 
the " common good/' it is hard for them to 
have to remind people by begging that they 
are in want. There is, as a matter of fact, 
no such word in either the Cree or Saul- 
teaux languages as " beg." The only thing 
approaching such a word in their language 
is " Puck-oo-she-twan " (Share with me). 
A nation whose expressive vocabulary holds 
no such words as " beg " or " beggar " we 
should be proud to help if ever it happens 
to be in need. 

Looking upon everything as their common 
property, they shared with one another all 
their belongings. Though some, of course, 
had more than other members of the band, 
none were allowed to be in want. They 
never asked for anything; their require- 
ments were anticipated by the Indians who 
were in a position to give. 

There is no doubt whatever as to the 
remarkable decline of good manners and 
polite usages among the Indians; years 
ago, everyone who studied their ways inti- 
mately was impressed with their natural 
dignity and fine manners. The Indian 


women taught their children certain things, 
but there were many customs which they 
seemed to acquire naturally and which only 
came from generations of dignified ances- 

Then, again, not so very long ago there 
were many of the older Indians who were 
noted for their fine speeches; and these 
were pointed out as the remnants of what 
all the Indians had once been. A few of 
these tactful little sayings might be quoted 
just as an illustration. They were never 
addressed directly to the person for whom 
they were intended, but to someone near-by, 
thus avoiding any cause for embarrassment. 
For instance, if someone, especially a white 
woman, were introduced, the Indian would 
say, in acknowledging the introduction: 
" Now I know why the gods were good to 
me and spared my life till this day. They 
know how I love beautiful things," or " I 
have faced hundreds of our enemies without 
fear, and this pleasure is my reward." 
They would also say many complimentary 
things when they were speaking to each 
other. These remarks were usually made 


in reference to some brave deed or especial 
skill of the person whom they desired to 
please. They were most modest as to their 
own good points, leaving to their friends 
all expressions of praise. 

There is no doubt that among the young 
men of the different tribes there was a cer- 
tain amount of vanity and pride. But un- 
fortunately for them there were also many 
wags who were ever ready to effect a cure 
for such cases. 

The Indians, though always appearing 
so dignified and haughty, were nevertheless 
very fond of playing practical jokes on each 
other; all of which were taken most good- 
naturedly and returned in kind. They 
possess a very keen sense of humour, and 
some of their jokes were wonderfully clever 
and well-planned. 

One has heard very often from the In- 
dians themselves of the practical jokes 
which they delighted to play upon each 
other. Perhaps none was so popular 
among them in the past as that of a false 
alarm during the dead of night. When 
every Indian literally took his sleep with 


" one eye open " to prevent being surprised 
by the enemy this joke was very easily per- 
petrated ; and the old Indians who are still 
alive take the greatest delight in relating the 
many ridiculous exclamations and antics of 
the startled and sleepy Indians. When 
the merry-maker was found out he had to 
be prepared for a return joke, and his life 
was not wanting in excitement until he had 
been paid back, with interest, for his work. 
Sometimes a scout, coming upon friendly 
Indians, would wait until nightfall be- 
fore approaching them, and without any 
warning would throw a stone into the 
middle of the encampment; whereupon 
every dog in the camp would set up the 
most hideous yelps and barkings, to the 
alarm of all the Indians. In a moment 
every brave would rush for his own par- 
ticular pony and be prepared to do or die, 
when from the distance they would be 
greeted by some jocular remark in their 
own tongue from the author of the alarm. 
Perhaps they would be informed that the 
Blackfoot nation was sound asleep many 
hundreds of miles away, and that the 


speaker was very sorry that his sneezing 
had been mistaken for a fusilade of the 
enemies' guns, and in conclusion the 
speaker would remark that he was delighted 
to join a band of Indians who slept so 
lightly, as he was particularly in need of 
a few nights' rest at the time, and would 
be happy to leave the watching for the 
enemy to them. But, as stated before, this 
Indian would surely be paid back in full 
for his trick. 

There were many stories such as these 
told by the Indians, and even if the joke 
was at their own expense they would enjoy 
relating the fun and merriment thus 



Social feasts Council meetings Arranging the 
signal code Scouts and scouting A narrow 
escape Kou-min-ah-koush (Like-a-Pine-Tree) 
A brave grandmother The boy's first raid The 
subtle warrior How the Blackf eet were deceived 
Chim-ass-cous A foray and a Sun Dance A 
night battle A prophecy Kin-ah-cas. 


INDIANS were always very fond of enter- 
taining their friends to a feast of any de- 
scription, the most skilful hunter in the 
band being the one who usually furnished 
these entertainments. These feasts could 
not be classified as luncheons or dinners, 
as they were served at any hour of the day, 
from sunrise till dark. When the hunter 
returned from a successful expedition, 
bringing home with him some particularly 
dainty piece of game, he would have his 
wife or daughters cook every bit of it, and 
when the meal was ready to be served would 
invite his friends to partake of it. They 
had only one form of invitation for all 
occasions, for a council meeting, which 
usually ended with a meal, as well as for 


a feast. The host, standing at the door of 
his tepee, would call out the name of the 
Indian whose presence was desired, and 
say, " This is where you are wanted ; bring 
your plate and cup with you, and also a 
good appetite." Some Indians would vary 
this form slightly by adding some remark, 
such as " Bring a good appetite ; we may be 
able to furnish you with dishes to eat off, 
but cannot supply a good appetite." 

The Indians thoroughly enjoyed them- 
selves at these informal feasts, and during 
their progress would keep each other in 
continual merriment by relating all manner 
of stories, and as there were some very 
good story-tellers among them the repast 
was always a great success. The menu was 
very seldom a lengthy one, but the Indians 
managed very easily to make the meal last 
for an hour or two. After it was finished, 
the guests, before departing, would make 
many complimentary remarks on their 
host's skill in the hunting field and their 
pleasure in being his guests. These little 
flatteries were repaid, very naturally, by an 
invitation for some future occasion. 


Council meetings were called by invita- 
tion of the chief or headmen of the band, 
and were only attended by the men of the 
tribe. Here were discussed matters per- 
taining to the welfare of the whole band or 
tribe. When things ran smoothly and the 
Indians were at peace no councils were 
called. But when game was scarce, as 
sometimes happened, or the winter sea- 
son severe, they held these council meet- 
ings to consider the best way in which 
to meet these trials and hardships. Each 
speaker was given the closest attention and 
was never interrupted except by expres- 
sions of approval from those who were of 
his opinion. 

During the times when they were on the 
war-path, their council meetings consisted 
of discussions as to the best tactics to be 
employed in attacking the enemy. At 
such meetings any of the younger men who 
had shown some particular ability during 
an encounter with the foe were honoured 
by being called to attend. Here were de- 
cided the signals to be used by their scouts, 
and these were seriously considered, as 


being of so much importance to each band. 
They varied with each expedition or foray 
of importance, for they must needs be in- 
telligible only to themselves, and the adver- 
sary was keen to become possessed of any 
code which would give his scouts informa- 
tion of intended movements. From long 
experience they had become skilful in elab- 
orating their systems, which they success- 
fully practised by means of reflections from 
mirrors, or some other polished or smooth 
article of wood or stone dipped in water to 
make it glitter in the sun by day, or by a 
bright fire at night. 

They had also a system of signal- 
ling with smoke which they could prac- 
tise with desired effect on dull or cloudy 
days. Each tribe had a secret sign which 
had to be given before any information 
could be exchanged between the operators. 
By these contrivances news was conveyed 
from point to point with a speed mystifying 
to anyone who was not aware of the sig- 
nificance of those glints of light or waver- 
ing shafts of smoke. 

In time of war between any two or more 



tribes their scouts were ever vigilant and 
selected the highest hills or ridges from 
which to overlook the surrounding country 
and watch any movements or approaches of 
the enemy, and also to be in a position to 
convey information to their respective 
camps through their established or fixed 
chain of watchmen. 

After the council was over the Indian 
who called it would invite them all to par- 
take of some refreshment, and they would 
very soon be laughing and joking, seemingly 
forgetful of their serious conference of but 
a few minutes before. 

The scouts were always chosen from 
among the younger men of the band. These 
by their powers of endurance and acts of 
bravery and cunning would win the con- 
fidence of all their friends, and were re- 
warded by being called upon to perform 
this duty. 

After the scouts had been gone a few 
hours (or even an hour, when in the vicinity 
of the enemy) another little band of Indians 
would station themselves upon the highest 
elevation or hill near their camp and keep 


a constant watch for any signals from the 
scouting party. These watchers were re- 
lieved from time to time, and were in con- 
stant communication with the whole band, 
so it was almost impossible for an enemy 
to steal upon them unawares. It is easily 
understood, then, why the different tribes 
of Indians had so many skilled scouts; so 
much in fact everything depended upon 
their watchfulness. 

The old Indians have many interesting 
stories to tell of their experiences while 
upon this duty. One old man told of a 
narrow escape he had had upon a certain 
occasion when he unexpectedly stumbled 
upon a hostile outpost. Sometimes the 
scout would have to leave his horse and 
go on foot to certain exposed places, 
where the foe might be seen. On this par- 
ticular occasion he had tied his pony in the 
shelter of some scrub and was climbing up 
a steep hill near-by. As he advanced he 
got down upon his hands and knees and 
very cautiously crawled up to the very top 
in order to look down into the valley on 
the other side. Imagine his surprise when 


he came upon one of the enemy's scouts who 
had become tired with long watching and 
had fallen fast asleep. From his position 
he had evidently been looking out in the 
direction from which the Indian had come, 
but fortunately had fallen asleep before 
he had seen him. Now the narrator, find- 
ing himself in this position, knew that the 
minute his enemy awoke he would raise an 
alarm, and perhaps be the means of kill- 
ing his friends, who had trusted to him for 
their safety. In an instant he realized that 
he must do away with his foe, and that 
without firing a shot, which would of course 
alarm the whole camp. Near-by was a 
good-sized stone, and this he managed to 
reach without wakening the sleeper, and it 
was only the work of a moment to despatch 
him by a well-aimed blow on the head. He 
left him there and, taking a careful survey 
of the valley and the encampment within 
its shelter, managed to get back to his pony 
and reach his friends without arousing the 
enemy. He soon returned with a small 
force and routed the foe. He, together with 
some friends, climbed the hill and buried 


the Indian who had, so fortunately for them, 
fallen asleep and been the means of their 
victory. With stones they made the figure 
of a man over the Indian's grave; and it 
is likely that upon that hill there still re- 
mains the memorial to an Indian who failed 
in his duty. The old Indian who told of 
this personal incident is still alive (1907), 
and in his day was one of the best scouts 
that the Saulteaux and Crees had. He was 
a splendid rider, had any amount of daring, 
and was an unerring marksman with bow 
and arrow as well as with the rifle. 

The scouts had to depend many a time 
upon their bows and arrows, which in 
skilled hands were as deadly as firearms, 
and did their work silently. When a scout 
was surprised everything depended upon 
quickness and silence. If his adversary 
had time to raise an alarm by firing off his 
rifle or giving a war-whoop (which was an 
even more effective signal in such a case) 
the scout had small chance of escaping from 
pursuers as clever as he was in the art of 
tracking an enemy. 

The favorite hero among the Cree story- 


tellers is an Indian whose whole life was 
full of adventure. This Indian, who started 
life under the humblest circumstances, was 
one of the bravest of their band and was 
ie pride of the whole Cree nation. Koo- 
min-ah-koush (Like-a-Pine-Tree) was a 
poor orphan boy brought up by his aged 
grandmother in as wretched a state of pov- 
erty as was possible among the Indians. 
At the time of his first appearance the 
Crees and Saulteaux were at almost con- 
tinuous warfare with the Blackfeet, as 
well as with the Sioux. From the first 
this poor little boy (whose father had been 
killed by his enemies and his mother kid- 
napped by them) had heard nothing but 
talk of wars and raids. He was old for his 
rears, being the constant companion of his 
grandmother, for whom he did as much as 
he possibly could. He seldom had any- 
thing new to wear, being clad in the cast- 
>ff garments of the children of his own size 
r ho were more fortunate than he. He 
lever had any moccasins for his feet in the 
immer, and was altogether an object of 
larity and pity to the rest of the band. 
10 145 


His grandmother had three or four dogs, 
and these, with a travois, constituted their 
sole means of transportation when on the 
march. Koo-min-ah-koush, however, had 
learned to ride by herding the ponies be- 
longing to different members of the band, 
and by even the youngsters who possessed 
their own mounts was acknowledged 
the best rider for his age. One can easily 
imagine how fond this little Indian boy 
became of riding, and how ambitious to 
possess a pony of his own. To his old 
grandmother he confided his few secret am- 
bitions : to own a good, swift pony, to be a 
good shot with his bow and arrow, and to 
fight their enemies. The old woman was 
very clever at making bows and arrows, and 
it was her greatest pleasure to help her 
little grandson to fulfil one of his ambitions 
by furnishing him with one size after an- 
other as he grew up, and urging him to per- 
fect himself in their use by constant prac- 
tice. This he was only too glad to do, and 
with great success, as his future use of them 

His first adventure of note wa at the age 


of eleven. At this time there were almost 
weekly skirmishes with the enemy, who 
were pressing upon them and following 
them north into their own part of the coun- 
try. The Crees were encamped somewhere 
near the Saskatchewan Kiver, where the 
city of Edmonton now stands. Koo-min- 
ah-koush had wandered into the tepee of 
one of the headmen of the band, who had 
called a council meeting. His presence was 
not objected to, as the Indians were only 
too anxious to teach the younger generation 
the arts of warfare, and the boys were 
usually encouraged to attend these meet- 
ings. At this particular one the Crees were 
planning an attack upon the enemy and 
arranging to send out a party of scouts 
early the following morning. There were to 
be five or six in the party, and these were 
chosen from their bravest men. Koo-min- 
ah-koush hurried to his grandmother's little 
tepee and begged her to get him a pair of 
moccasins and some buffalo thong for a 
lasso for catching horses. He informed her 
that he intended joining the scouting party 
which was leaving early the following 


morning. His old grandmother got him all 
he required, but warned him that he might 
not be allowed to accompany them. 

However, the boy was determined, and 
started off with the party at daybreak the 
next morning. His presence was not no- 
ticed until they had gone some miles and 
had halted for a rest. Here the older In- 
dians told him he must return to the camp, 
as his youth was against him, and he might 
by some blunder bring disaster to the party. 
He begged to be allowed to accompany them, 
and promised he should do nothing to cause 
them to regret his presence in their party. 
They would not hear of it, however, and 
told him he was nothing but a baby and had 
no courage or endurance. Then some of 
them actually taunted him with his up- 
bringing by an aid woman, who was hardly 
likely to have taught him the arts of war- 
fare. Koo-min-ah-koush then hid near 
them and waited patiently all day long till 
the darkness made it safe for more scout- 
ing. Just at dusk a member of the party 
returned from a reconnoitre of the enemy's 
camping-ground. The boy overheard them 


plan the attack, and was ready to follow 
them when they started. 

The party had decided to steal all the 
horses they possibly could without awaken- 
ing the enemy, and if possible accomplish 
this without killing any of them. So they 
crept upon the sleeping camp, and each pro- 
ceeded to cut loose a horse from the doors 
of the tepees where they were tied. The 
best horses were always tied near the door 
of the owner's tent, so as to be near at hand 
in case of an alarm, and also for the safety 
of the horses themselves. 

But alas for their plans ! the watch-dogs 
were aroused and by their barking gave the 
alarm. The Crees had already cut the 
lines securing the horses, and in this way 
managed to get a good start of their pur- 
suers, but one of their number was slain. 
The boy, on account of his youth, had been 
unobserved, and by good luck had secured 
one of the fleetest horses in the camp, and 
riding away ahead of his party was able 
to get assistance from their own band, and 
himself led the way back to the rescue of 


the first scouting party he had ever gone 
out with. 

This was the turning-point in his career. 
All the Indians had to acknowledge his 
bravery and endurance, and gave him every 
opportunity to fulfil his ambitions. He was 
soon recognized as their best scout, and he 
never returned from any expedition without 
bringing home some horses or other trophies 
of war. 

He disappeared from the band when 
about eighteen years of age, only to return 
three years after with a complete mastery 
of the Blackfoot language, which made him 
invaluable as a scout to the Crees and Saul- 
teaux. He had lived among the enemy and 
could pass as a Blackfoot. His achieve- 
ments are thus summed up : " Koo-min-ah- 
koush was a great warrior and a strong 
medicine man. He killed fourteen Black- 
feet before he lost his own life. His right 
eye was shot out by Low Horn in the fight 
when that warrior was killed. He was 
twice tossed by buffalo bulls, and each time 
severely injured; twice thrown from his 
horse, each time breaking some bones ; and 


had three scars on his right side from 
Blackfoot bullets. It was thought by his 
own people, and even by some of the Black- 
feet, that he could not be killed.''* 
One of his exploits is thus narrated : 
" On one occasion a party of Blackfeet 
surprised him with six of his young men, 
and drove them out on a small point of 
land on a lake. The Crees dug rifle-pits, 
and by firing from them kept the Blackfeet 
at bay all through the day. Night fell dark 
and cloudy, and Koo-min-ah-koush told his 
young men to swim across the lake, leaving 
their guns and ammunition with him, and 
he would fight the Blackfeet alone. After 
they had gone he ran from one hole to an- 
other, firing a shot from each, until his 
men had had time to get away. Then he 
crept out to the Blackfoot lines and began, 
like them, to fire at the deserted holes, and 
getting near to a Blackfoot he shot and 
scalped him, passed through the lines and 
escaped. In the morning the Blackfeet 

* "The Story of the Indian," by Geo. B. Grinnell, 
pp. 107, 108. 



found the Crees gone, and only their own 
dead to look at." 

Koo-min-ah-koush was a paragon of the 
Cree race and lived to be a very old man, 
dying near Fort Pitt in the sixties. In- 
trepid in war, he was noted in peace for his 
many acts of kindness, especially to the old 
women of his tribe, as he never forgot the 
grandmother who had cared for him in his 

Chim-ass-cous was another Cree Indian 
who was noted for his bravery. He was a 
medicine man, and at the time of his activity 
as a warrior, in the early part of the last 
century, was credited with having wonder- 
ful powers of second sight. All medicine 
men were not blessed with this power^ and 
when one was supposed to possess it he was 
looked upon with much awe and honour by 
all other Indians. 

The last expedition Chim-ass-cous led was 
when he was quite an old man, in the year 
1851. The Crees had a large encampment 
at the Side Woods, a place south-west of 
Touchwood Hills, north of the Qu'Appelle 
Valley. Hearing of the approach of a band 


of Blackfeet, Chim-ass-cous suggested that 
a party be sent out to intercept their march 
northward into the Cree territory. He told 
his friends that after " making medicine " 
he felt confident of the successful issue of 
their raid should they start immediately 
and place themselves entirely under his 
instructions. It was never a difficult mat- 
ter to secure volunteers for such expedi- 
tions, and Chim-ass-cous soon found his 
party large enough to warrant a start to- 
wards the enemy's camp. 

They intended making a detour south of 
the place the scouts had reported, so they 
started for the elbow of the South Saskat- 
chewan River and on to the Big Hill, which 
lay between Islet Hill and Ochre Hill. After 
sending out a scouting party from the Big 
Hill, the main body moved south to Ochre 
Hill, and, it being the early part of the sum- 
mer, Chim-ass-cous decided to hold a Sun 
Dance ( Nee-pah-quah-see-mun ) while they 
were encamped there. It was an ideal spot 
for the ceremony, with good water and beau- 
tifully wooded. Their scouting party, being 
informed of the contemplated move from 


the Big Hill to Ochre Hill, were to join 
them in the dance. The scouts also, acting 
as bearers of an invitation from Chim-ass- 
cous, got word to quite a number of other 
Crees and Saulteaux, who joined the little 
band at Ochre Hill with the intention of 
taking part in the Sun Dance. 

Unfortunately for them, a party of twenty 
or more Blackfeet had also been sent out 
upon a scouting expedition, and, by some 
peculiar chance of war, stumbled upon the 
dance at the Ochre Hill during the second 
night of its progress. The Crees and their 
friends, expecting the return of their own 
scouts, were most unprepared for a surprise, 
and were all intent upon their ceremony, 
when the party of Blackfeet rode into their 
midst. In a moment all was confusion, but 
they were not so excited as to forget to put 
out all fires and torches, thus leaving every- 
thing in total darkness. Chim-ass-cous and 
his friends had the advantage of knowing 
every bit of the ground upon which they had 
camped, and being unmounted, managed 
to overcome their enemy, as it was an easy 
matter to pick off the riders as they rode 


by and around the Crees, who, of course, 
had crouched upon the ground as soon as all 
the fires and torches in the camp had been 
extinguished. Some of the party escaped 
to the hill and signalled danger to their 
scouts, should they be in the vicinity. 

The next morning the ground was gone 
over, and from evidence found Chim-ass- 
cous decided that their enemy of the night 
before had been a scouting or raiding party. 
They found the body of an old Blackfoot 
Indian with white hair, and as this sign of 
age is unusual even among the very oldest 
Indians, the place was renamed by them, 
" Where the white-headed old man was 
killed." From here they followed the few 
Blackfeet who had escaped, and overtaking 
them before they reached the main body 
from which they were an offshoot, managed 
to overcome a large number of them, and 
carried home many spoils of the fight, be- 
sides capturing an unusually fine lot of 

Chim-ass-cous remarked to his band of 
followers, as they wended their way back to 
the Side Woods, " I am an old man, and 


not white-headed. White hairs do not al- 
ways mean success," referring to the old 
Indian they had killed during the night of 
their surprise. The Indians often use the 
expression which Chim-ass-cous used that 
day. For instance, if an old Indian has 
accomplished something out of the ordinary 
in hunting or in walking a long distance 
under trying circumstances, he may say: 
" I am old, but I can do more than one 
white-haired Indian did." Many such ex- 
pressions have originated in just such a 
way as this one of Chim-ass-cous. 

One of the peculiar incidents in connec- 
tion with this expedition was the return of 
one of their scouting parties with the un- 
welcome information that they were being 
met by some of the enemy returning south 
from the Side Hills. This naturally caused 
a great deal of uneasiness among Chim-ass- 
cous' party, as almost every warrior had 
gradually joined them, and left in the camp 
with their wives and daughters were only 
very old men, almost unable to defend the 

The scouts had come upon the party at 


night on the return from their successful 
fight, and just one day's journey from the 
Blackfoot camp. All that night Chim- 
ass-cous prayed to Kichie Manitou (The 
Great Spirit) to give him second sight to 
see into the midst of the camping-party his 
friends had reported as being their enemy. 
The next morning he aroused his sleeping 
companions and informed them that instead 
of the approaching party being an enemy 
they were friends, traders from the Hud- 
son's Bay fort at Touchwood Hills. And 
this turned out to be true, as they were 
shortly joined by the party of traders and 
induced to do some hunting before return- 
ing to their families at the " Side Hills." 

It may, of course, have been possible that 
Chim-ass-cous had information of the in- 
tended departure of the Hudson's Bay 
traders at just such a time as would bring 
them to the vicinity of the Ochre Hills when 
they were seen by the scouts. Be that as 
it may, the Indians always refer to this 
instance in particular as being one of the 
most wonderful in Chim-ass-cous' career as 
a medicine man. 



Another Indian in whose prophecies of 
success or disaster in their undertakings 
the Cree and Saulteaux had great faith was 
" Kin-ah-cas " (You are leading), whose 
father was an Assiniboine and whose 
mother was a Cree. He was a great medi- 
cine man and was thought to have the help 
of very powerful spirits in his petitions to 
Kichie Manitou. 

So successful were his predictions and 
instructions as to one of their expeditions 
that, upon the return of the victorious 
party, the chief gave him his young daugh- 
ter to wed, this being the highest honour 
he could confer upon anyone. 

Keferring to the mixed parentage of 
" Kin-ah-cas," it may safely be said that 
some of their bravest men were the off- 
spring of Cree or Saulteaux and Assini- 
boine parents. One of the Indians of such 
parents was " Piapot," who in latter years 
was looked upon as a great orator and a 
most courageous man. 

A typical clash between two hostile 
tribes is preserved in a tradition of the fight 
between Yellow Head, a Cree leader, and 


the Blackfeet. It contains all the elements 
of desperate, sudden attack and intrepid, 
furious bravery which characterize their 
battles on the plains. This chief, with one 
hundred followers, returning from a hunt- 
ing expedition and as yet many miles from 
the main camp, was ambuscaded by a war 
party of the Blackfeet. Outnumbered, 
miles from reinforcement, the light-hearted 
hunters, but an hour before sweeping along 
carelessly, laden with peaceful spoils, sud- 
denly driven together became a band of 
heroes bound to sell their lives dearly. 
Skilfully and bravely commanded by Yel- 
low Head, they fought for hours, beating 
back their assailants at every point and 
finally driving them off, but at what a cost ! 
Yellow Head was killed, and sixty of the 
braves. The remaining forty, many of them 
desperately wounded, gathered up the 
horses of the force, and adding the trophies 
of war to the burdens of the chase limped, 
broken but victorious, into the astonished 



Poetry and music Constant improvisation The 
minor mode No poetic or musical literature 
The march song Love songs "The Calling 
River" The farewell song A boy's first song. 

A PECULIAR lack of poetry is one of the 
features of the Indians' songs. Though 
they repeat words for the different tunes 
they sing, there is a lack of rhyme and 
rhythm in proportion to their naturally 
poetic language which is hard to account 
for. Each time a tune is sung new words 
seem to be composed for it, though, of 
course, they are always applicable to the 
particular song. In this composing or im- 
provising of words for the different songs 
some Indians show very much more poetic 
feeling than others. 

As a matter of fact, very few of their 
songs are sung to words except those which 
might be called love songs, and these, hav- 
ing once been sung by a certain Indian, 
are repeated by others, with a variation of 
words upon the original theme. 


All their music is sung in the minor key. 
Even their festival music has a minor 
strain, especially when sung by both men's 
and women's voices, the latter always sing- 
ing the harmony in the minor. It is hard 
to account for this peculiarity of their mu- 
sic, unless it be from their love of nature 
and solitude. The Indians as a whole are 
passionately fond of the pine tree, and any- 
one who has listened to the play of the 
winds in the pine forests will remember the 
strange minor moanings among the 
branches. It is more than likely that from 
this source springs their fondness for the 
minor strain in all their songs. 

To most people who hear the Indian sing 
his different songs there is an apparent 
sameness in them all. But this is certainly 
not the case, as there are entirely different 
airs to each of their several songs, though 
all are founded upon one rhythmical motif. 

One must always take into consideration 
the fact that the Indian had no way of 
writing down his thoughts. This made it 
impossible to have any poetic literature or 
any fixed traditional melodies. As has 
11 161 


been remarked before, each Indian made up 
the words for his song, and these naturally 
varied when repeated by others, even 
though treating on a definite subject. 

Their . memory for the songs they sang 
was truly wonderful, and indicated a strong 
racial love for music. Take, for instance, 
the march song which the Indians used to 
sing on returning from a successful hunting 
or raiding expedition. Perhaps hundreds 
would join in the singing, yet every voice 
sang in most perfect tune and harmony. 
Then as the party drew near the camp the 
women would join in, and they also were 
wonderfully correct as to time and har- 
mony. The voices of the women were 
pitched in a higher key, and had a peculiar 
tone, resembling the notes of a flute more 
than anything else. 

Each Indian composed his or her own 
love song, and the words were generally 
only suitable to one particular case, treat- 
ing as they did of certain localities. Per- 
haps the valley of the Qu'Appelle ("The 
Calling River " ) , with its beautiful scenery, 
was responsible for most of their senti- 


mental songs, the echo in the valley appeal- 
ing at once to their fancy and superstition. 
One of the prettiest of the many traditions 
relating to the valley was that of the young 
woman who, imagining her lover was call- 
ing to her from one of the hills, pushed off 
in her little bark canoe and was never heard 
of any more. Her voice was left in the 
valley and answers back in plaintive tones 
when anyone calls. Her lover returned a 
short time after her departure, but, though 
he followed her, never found even a trace 
of her canoe. At twilight her canoe would 
appear for a few minutes upon the surface 
of one of the many beautiful lakes in the 
valley, only to disappear again in a soft 
mist if anyone tried to approach it. 

This was a favourite theme for the In- 
dian, and the tune to which the many dif- 
ferent words are sung is most fascinating. 
In the olden days there was never an 
occasion of any importance which was 
not marked by its song. The meeting 
of a friendly band of Indians was always 
an occasion for singing. Their departure 
was also marked by its own farewell mel- 


ody. When they were living peacefully, 
with no fear of the enemy, they passed most 
of their leisure time in singing and dancing. 

It is a matter of regret that the Indians 
had no way of writing down or recording 
words and music. To many of them these 
are but a memory of happier times when 
upon every possible occasion they broke out 
into song. For them these times have gone, 
like the passing of the buffalo, never to 

How proud the fond mother was of the 
first flight of song from her young son, and 
if she were fortunate enough to commit it 
to memory, she would often sing it when 
her son was away, hoping and believing its 
notes would be wafted through the dividing 
space and be a charm to protect him from 
harm and danger. 



The Algonquin divinity Wee-sack-ka-chack Napiw 
Nay-na-push Two creation myths. 

THE Indians have a mythic romance 
woven around an imaginary being whom 
they claim to have been the first man upon 
this earth; a personage volatile and de- 
lusive, who has as many characteristics and 
attributes as vapour may have shapes and 

He is the pervading and ever-present 
Algonquin divinity, if the latter term be not 
too suggestive of worship to apply. He is 
called, among the Crees, Wee-sack-ka-chack ; 
among the O jib ways, Nay-na-push or Nay- 
nu-boo-shoo. The Blackfeet know him as 
Napiw, or Old Man, the Micmacs as Gloos- 
cap; and he appears in the legends and 
tales of every branch of this wide-spread 
people from Nova Scotia to the Eocky 
Mountains and as far south as Virginia. 
Around him has been gathered, through 


ages, all the imaginative invention of minds 
given over to poetic and interpretative ideas, 
and his doings and sayings embrace every- 
thing from attempted explanations of nat- 
ural phenomena to crude and often gross 
conceptions of humour. He has been treated 
as a " creator, a defender, a teacher and at 
the same time a conqueror, a robber, a de- 
ceiver." To a nature-myth Dr. Brinton 
refers his origin, a nature-myth represent- 
ing, "on the one hand, the unceasing 
struggle of day with night, of light with 
darkness, and, on the other, that no less 
important conflict which is ever waging 
between the storm and sunshine, the win- 
ter and summer, the rain and the clear sky." 
But whatever the conception of this enor- 
mous and ever-changing figure, each Indian 
who in the days of the past had the gift 
of expression and the desire to create added 
to the store of legends his crude interpreta- 
tion of nature or his tale of magic or ad- 

Wee-sack-ka-chack is represented as be- 
ing a most wonderful personage, claiming 
to have created the earth after the flood 


and to have been the means of saving all 
the birds of the air and beasts of the field 
by his wisdom. He is also claimed to have 
understood and conversed with all the 
animals, birds, fishes and insects, and also 
with all manner of plants. 

He was sometimes wonderfully wise, and 
upon other occasions most simple. He was 
tremendously self-opinionated and was al- 
ways boasting of his attainments. This 
naturally made him try his powers upon all 
he came in contact with, and though almost 
invariably worsted in these contests, he 
never acknowledged himself beaten. 

So wise did he consider himself that he 
looked upon everybody and everything as 
being much younger than he was, and in- 
sisted upon being addressed by them all as 
their elder brother, as an acknowledgment 
of the wisdom of old age. He never ad- 
dressed anyone, or any bird, animal or 
plant, except as his " young brother." 

'Certain birds and animals who had 
treated him disrespectfully he punished by 
some peculiarity which changed their ori- 
ginal appearance and was a lasting rebuke 


to all their kind forever after. There were 
others, again, whose appearance he im- 
proved, in return for some courtesy they 
had shown him. 

The Indians say that all the ravines run- 
ning from the tops of the mountains and 
hills into the valleys below were made by 
Wee-sack-ka-chack sliding down them in- 
stead of walking, as he was generally too 
lazy to walk down hill, and in many locali- 
ties peculiar natural formations are pointed 
out as having been occasioned by some 
escapade of this ever-present, never-resting 

There is a great deal of uncertainty as to 
where Wee-sack-ka-chack makes his home. 
The Indians say that for some reason or 
other he left these parts years ago and took 
up his abode on an island far away towards 
the rising sun (the east). They say if one 
were to walk till they came to the big water 
(Kichie-karnee) and were to look to the 
east they would see an island in the ocean ; 
if they could get to that island they would 
see another much farther away, and upon 
that one it is supposed Wee-sack-ka-chack 



now lives. But when anyone lands upon 
the island he disappears from view and goes 
under the ground. He is so old that he has 
lost his good looks and is ashamed to be 

The Indians have a large number of myths 
relating to Wee-sack-ka-chack and his do- 
ings. There are usually one or two Indians 
in every band who are acknowledged to be 
good Wee-sack-ka-chack story-tellers. But 
they never tell any of these stories during 
the summer season, when they are, or 
should be, busy putting up stores for their 
winter use. In fact, Wee-sack-ka-chack 
himself made this rule, and in order to have 
it carried out instructed his young brother, 
the lizard, to keep careful watch that his 
instructions are observed. If they are not, 
the lizard must attack the story-teller when 
he is fast asleep and suck all the blood from 
'jiis heart. So firmly do the Indians believe 
iii this threat of Wee-sack-ka-chack's that 
it is impossible to get them to tell any of 
thtf stories during the summer, or, indeed, 
so long as there are any lizards in the 



The following are a few of the stories 
which are told of Wee-sack-ka-chack. 
Two versions of the story of the flood are 
given. Almost every Indian has his own 
version of these interesting fables. 

Once upon a time, many hundreds of 
years ago, Wee-sack-ka-chack was warned 
in a dream that the earth was going to be 
submerged and the whole world was to be 
one huge ocean. He awoke from his sleep 
early one morning and found the whole sky 
overcast and showing every appearance of 
a heavy rain. He arose and made all pos- 
sible haste to reach the very highest hill he 
could see. On his way he called to all the 
birds and beasts to follow him, as he was 
going to save them from drowning, telling 
them of the warning he had received in his 
dream. When he reached the hill he 
began to build an immense raft of larg^ 
poles. In the centre of the raft he placed 
a tall tree with many branches. As soon 
as the raft was ready he told the birds and 
beasts to get on, as the flood might come at 
any moment. 



Very soon it began to rain, and Wee-sack- 
ka-chack noticed all the rivers and lakes 
within sight begin to overflow their banks 
and cover all the surrounding country. All 
this time he kept calling to the birds and 
beasts to get on the raft and be saved, tell- 
ing them if they did not do so they would 
surely be drowned. In a short time the 
waters had reached the top of the hill and 
the raft began to float away. There was 
no wind, only a steady rain and a dense 
sky overhead. 

Many animals who had not reached the 
hill in time came swimming up to the raft 
and, resting their chins on the edge of it, 
begged to be taken on, which, of course, was 
done; Wee-sack-ka-chack was too kind to 
leave any of his young brothers to perish 
in the waters. As the raft began to fill, 
the birds had to perch upon the branches of 
the tree to make room for the animals. 

The rain kept falling, and for many many 
days there was no break in the gray 
clouds above them, but the strange com- 
pany upon the raft were kept safe from 
harm. Wee-sack-ka-chack kept count of 


the days by cutting a little nick in the tree 
which he had placed in the centre of the 
raft. When almost two moons had come 
and gone he noticed one morning that the 
clouds were beginning to break, and soon 
after the rain ceased. But even after the 
rain had stopped they floated about, driven 
first in one direction and then in another 
by the winds which came with the clearing 
of the sky. After a long time of weary 
waiting for the sight of land, Wee-sack-ka- 
chack decided to ask some of his little 
friends to help him find some earth, so call- 
ing the mink to him he said : " My young 
brother, we must try to find some earth, 
for if I do not make a new world for us 
to live in we shall all die. Now I want 
you to dive down as far as possible and see 
if there is any earth to be found beneath 
all this water." The mink jumped into 
the water and went down. After several 
minutes he came up almost exhausted and 
said he had seen no earth. 

Wee-sack-ka-chack next called upon the 
beaver to investigate, but he too failed, 
after being gone several minutes. The 


otter was next called on, and Wee-sack-ka- 
chack urged him very strongly to try and 
go down far enough to bring up at least a 
tiny bit of earth. But the otter, too, met 
with no success, even after being down so 
long that he was almost drowned before 
they helped him on to the raft. 

Wee-sack-ka-chack was at his wit's end 
to know which of his many little friends 
he could possibly get to go down next, when 
by merest chance he happened to catch 
sight of the rat; so addressing him Wee- 
sack-ka-chack said, " My little brother, you 
are a good swimmer and now our hopes rest 
upon you. Your big brothers have tried 
their best and failed; now you must go 
down: sometimes small things succeed 
where larger ones fail." So the rat dived 
off the raft and went to try his luck. He 
was down so long that all on the raft be- 
came very anxious for his safety. But pres- 
ently he came up and was assisted out of 
the water by Wee-sack-ka-chack, who had 
great difficulty in resuscitating him. When 
he was sufficiently revived to speak the rat 
said he had seen the earth, but fainted 


before he could get any of it. Wee-sack-ka- 
chack was delighted with his little friend's 
success, and after a good rest sent him 
down again, asking him to do his best to 
bring some earth up with him. So for the 
second time the rat went down, and after 
a long time Wee-sack-ka-chack saw his body 
floating near the raft and had to pull him 
in with a branch of the tree. After they 
had worked over him for some time the fox 
noticed that the rat had his forepaws 
tightly closed as if holding something, and 
drew Wee-sack-ka-chack's attention to the 
fact. They opened his paws and in them 
found a little earth which he had man- 
aged to grasp before losing consciousness. 
Upon this earth Wee-sack-ka-chack started 
to work ; blowing on it until perfectly dry, 
he scattered it a little at a time over the 
waters, and as he did so it began to form 
a solid mass which grew larger and larger 
around the raft until it looked like a huge 

After a few days Wee-sack-ka-chack sent 
a young wolf around the land to report as 
to its size. The wolf was gone for only 


one day, and told his older brother that the 
earth was far too small for all of them to 
subsist upon, and if they were to live upon 
it it must be made very much larger. 

So Wee-sack-ka-chack took some of the 
earth in his hands and scattered it so that 
it would be blown away by the winds to the 
four points of heaven. He then waited a 
few days before sending off another wolf to 
see the size of this island. This wolf on his 
return also reported the island as being too 
small for them all. Then again Wee-sack- 
ka-chack worked away and waited a week 
or two before sending another wolf to sur- 
vey their land. This one returned in a 
year's time and said it was almost large 
enough but it would be to their advantage 
to make it larger. This Wee-sack-ka-chack 
proceeded to do, and after a month's labour 
sent out a young wolf, who came back after 
many years, an old wolf, with the welcome 
information that the earth was large enough 
for all the birds and beasts to live upon. 
It must be explained that every one of these 
wolves were sent early in the morning, just 
at sunrise, and they each started in the 


direction of the rising sun and kept on 
going around the island until they reached 
their starting-place. 

As soon as Wee-sack-ka-chack was sure 
of the size of the earth he sent each 
animal and bird out into the world with 
his kind to make his living. It was here 
that he gave them all their names, each 
name being given on account of some pecu- 
liarity of its owner. And Wee-sack-ka- 
chack at this time also instructed them in 
the way each bird and animal was to make 
its living. For instance, he explained to 
the beaver how to use his tail as a trowel 
to build his dam. The beaver has done 
this ever since. 

Because the fox was the first to notice 
that the rat's paws were closed tightly over 
the earth he had scratched up for Wee-sack- 
ka-chack, he was made more cunning than 
all other animals. Because the wolf had 
fasted longest when running around the 
earth, Wee-sack-ka-chack told him he would 
have the largest appetite for his size in all 
the animal kingdom. Because the skunk 
was not pleasant to come upon suddenly, 


Wee-sack-ka-chack put white stripes down 
his back so that people could see him 
plainly in the distance and avoid him. To 
the ermine he said, " My young brother, you 
are very pretty, but I think you will be 
prettier with a black tip to your tail ;" and 
the ermine has always worn a tail with a 
black tip ever since. 

Another version of a flood-myth and Wee- 
sack-ka-chack's connection with it is as 
follows : 

It seems that Wee-sack-ka-chack was the 
first person in the world. One day he 
started out for a walk, and after walking 
for a long time almost around the world, 
in fact he came to a hill. Now this hill 
overlooked a very beautiful valley, and in 
the valley he noticed a large wigwam. This 
he was delighted to see, as he felt sure some 
fellow-beings were living in it. But as he 
approached it he was surprised to see that 
the door was made of a wolf-skin. Wee- 
sack-ka-chack never killed any of his young 
friends, and did not understand why any- 
one else should have done so. But he was 
more surprised when he lifted the door of 
12 177 


the wigwam and, looking in, saw two large 
snakes, coiled together and wriggling 
around. They actually appeared to make 
the ground upon which the wigwam stood 
tremble with their every movement. Wee- 
sack-ka-chack managed, however, to kill 
them, but being fascinated by their size and 
colour, he continued to gaze upon them till 
he noticed that they were gradually being 
submerged by water. He drew back from 
the tent door and looked around him, when 
to his horror he saw that the water was 
gradually rising all about him too. Pull- 
ing the wolf-skin off the door, he ran to- 
wards the hill from which he had seen the 
wigwam. The waters seemed to be rushing 
upon him, though he ran as fast as he pos- 
sibly could. But when he reached the hill 
they appeared to stop, so he took fresh 
courage and, as he climbed, called out to 
all the birds and animals to come to him. 
When he reached the top of the hill he saw 
the waters were on all sides of him; then 
he knew that unless he made a raft immedi- 
ately he and all his young friends would 
perish. So he cut down the largest trees 


he could find, and tying them together with 
the fibrous roots of others he soon had a 
huge raft built ; in the centre of it he stuck 
a fine, straight tree with many branches. 
As he made this fast he said, " This is for 
my young friends the birds to perch upon. 
They can see a long distance from the top 
of the tree and can tell me if anything 
appears on the waters." 

When the raft was finished he told all 
the birds and animals to get on it, as the 
waters would soon reach them and would 
cause the raft to float away from the hill. 
Very soon after this, rain began to fall in 
torrents and the raft floated away. A few 
of the animals who had not heeded Wee- 
sack-ka-chack ? s warnings to board the raft 
had to swim up to it, some being so ex- 
hausted by their exertions as to require 
assistance in getting on. While Wee-sack- 
ka-chack was helping some of them, others 
had to keep themselves from sinking by 
resting their chins upon the edge of the 

For days and days this strangely assorted 
company drifted over the waters. Wee- 


sack-ka-chack kept one of the birds upon 
the highest branch of the tree day and night, 
but none of them saw anything but water. 
It was during this voyage that the owl 
acquired the habit of staying up all night; 
as he could see in the darkness he was 
usually assigned to night duty. It was at 
this time, too, that Wee-sack-ka-chack came 
to know all the animals and birds so inti- 
mately. He had always been able to speak 
with them, but had not known them so well 
before this trip. 

When the rain had ceased and the sky 
had cleared Wee-sack-ka-chack began to 
think seriously of their future and of how 
he was to make the earth for them all to 
live upon. They couldn't possibly live on 
the raft all their lives ; so he called a meet- 
ing of all his young friends and discussed 
the best thing to be done. He assured them 
all that if it were possible to get even a 
tiny speck of earth he could from it make 
a huge island large enough for all. He 
reminded them of the fact that but for his 
love and wisdom they would all have been 
drowned, and that in return he expected 


their help in the present predicament. He 
wanted some of them to dive off the raft 
and try to bring up a little of the earth 
they had not seen for so many days. Three 
different animals volunteered to do this 
the beaver, the otter and the rat. Wee- 
sack-ka-chack thanked them and said he 
would ask the beaver to go down first, as 
he was strong and accustomed to undertake 
very difficult tasks and was also a good 
swimmer. So off the beaver jumped and 
was under the water a long time, but on 
his return he had to confess that he had 
not seen a sign of any earth, though he had 
gone down very far. 

The otter was the next one to go down. 
Wee-sack-ka-chack encouraged him to 
greater effort by reminding him that some 
of the best fishes were to be found in the 
deepest water. But though the otter stayed 
down much longer than the beaver he, too, 
disappointed his waiting friends by coming 
up without any earth and without having 
seen any. 

Things began to look very bad for Wee- 
sack-ka-chack and his company, for the only 


volunteer left was the rat, whose size did 
not promise any better success for finding 
the material required to build a new world. 
However, the rat himself was most cheer- 
ful and seemed confident of being more 
successful than his larger and stronger 
friends, the beaver and the otter. Just be- 
fore he dived off the raft Wee-sack-ka-chack 
impressed upon him to do his best, which of 
course the little rat had already made up 
his mind to do. They all watched him jump 
into the water, and waited most anxiously 
for his return. He stayed down for a very 
long time, and at last came up more dead 
than alive, but with the welcome informa- 
tion that he had seen some earth. Now 
this was indeed good news to them all. 
After a good rest he started once more for 
his seemingly impossible task. This time 
he was so long gone that his friends began 
to fear for his life, because even a rat can- 
not stay more than a certain time under 
the water. However, one of the animals 
suddenly noticed his small, limp body in 
the water, and Wee-sack-ka-chack managed 
with the aid of a branch to pull him near 


enough to the raft to get him on board. 
He appeared to be dead, but Wee-sack- 
ka-chack worked over him until he felt 
his heart begin to beat and knew he was 
going to live. Just then the fox remarked 
that the rat had his paws tightly clenched, 
as if holding something, so Wee-sack-ka- 
chack forced them open, and sure enough 
the brave little fellow had managed to 
scratch up some earth in each small paw 
and had thus saved the situation. 

Wee-sack-ka-chack took the earth and 
dried it very carefully. Afterwards he blew 
it in all directions, and wherever it fell the 
land began to form. After days of this 
work Wee-sack-ka-chack thought he had 
surely made an island large enough for 
them all, but in order to be sure of the 
size of his island he looked around among 
his friends to find one who would run all 
around it and report as to its size. Some 
of the animals were a little nervous about 
undertaking this task, but Wee-sack-ka- 
chack said to the wolf, " Now, my young 
brother, you are surely brave enough to do 
this. Remember I saved your skin from 


the door of the snake's tepee, and in return 
you must do this for me." So off the wolf 
started, running toward the rising sun, and 
in that direction they waited for his return. 
He was only away for a year when back 
he came, saying the island was not nearly 
large enough. This report started Wee- 
sack-ka-chack again, and after working for 
weeks he sent off another wolf. This one 
was away so long that he was old and grey 
when he returned. He said the island was 
now quite large enough for them all. Wee- 
sack-ka-chack was delighted to hear this, 
and said to the wolf, " You may be old and 
grey, but you will be game to the last, and 
you shall be able to fast longer than all 
other animals, and also to eat more than 
any other of your size when there is food to 
be had." 



Two more legends Wee-sack-ka-chack and the 
Bald-headed Eagles Wee-sack-ka-chack and 
the Fox. 

ONCE upon a time Wee-sack-ka-chack, on 
one of his numerous travels, had to climb 
to the brow of a high hill. It was a warm 
day in the month of Moulting Birds (July), 
and when he reached the top he was very 
hot and tired and sat down to rest himself. 

Presently he noticed two huge eagles 
soaring far above him, and he called to 
them, " My young brothers, come down and 
let me get upon your backs and take me up 
high into the air where it is cool. I am 
tired and very warm." So they came down, 
and, letting Wee-sack-ka-chack mount upon 
their wings, they bore him up towards the 
sky and the swaying motion soon lulled 
him to sleep. Imagine his surprise when 
he awoke to find himself shivering with 
cold, and up among the clouds. He at 
once told the eagles they had taken him 


too far up, and to carry him down to the 
earth again. But this they had no inten- 
tion of doing, and instead kept going up 
higher and higher until Wee-sack-ka-chack 
found himself in a region of huge icicles 
which seemed to be suspended from the 
heavens. To save himself from striking 
against them he grasped one in each hand, 
and found himself deserted by the eagles 
and hanging in the air. 

The warmth from his hands soon caused 
the icicles to melt, and the cold water from 
them trickled down his arms and body. 
He realized that it was only a matter of a 
few minutes until the icicles should be 
melted by his hold upon them, and calling 
to the eagles, who had remained in the 
vicinity, he begged of them to come to his 
rescue. But those unkind birds left him 
to his fate and saw him drop down into 
space. Poor Wee-sack-ka-chack was going 
down and down towards the earth, which 
appeared to be miles below him. He 
had lots of time to think, and also to pray, 
during his travel through space. So he 
made supplication to the earth that she 


might be kind to him and guide his fall to 
some one of the many soft places on her 
broad surface. The earth heard him, and 
guided his flight to a soft mound, where he 
fell. But the force of his fall caused him 
to be buried almost to the middle of his 
body, and as he came down head first his 
trying position may be better imagined than 
described. However, he managed to extri- 
cate himself by wriggling, and when he did 
get out was completely exhausted and lay 
down in a semi-conscious condition. He 
was aroused from this state by feeling some 
crows pecking at him, and hearing some 
wolves arguing among themselves as to 
whether he was alive or dead. He was too 
weak to speak, and lay quietly gazing up 
towards the heavens, when he saw the two 
huge eagles hovering above him. This 
helped to bring back his senses, and he 
said to the crows, " My young brothers, I 
am not dead yet, but stay around me and 
pretend to be picking at my flesh. I want 
to punish those two eagles when they come 
to eat me." So the crows did as requested 
and were soon joined by the eagles. 


Wee-sack-ka-chack lay on his back with 
his arms stretched out and his palms open. 
Very soon the eagles began pecking at the 
palms of his hands, and awaiting his chance 
he suddenly closed his hands upon the 
eagles' heads and held them firmly. After 
struggling for a long time they managed to 
get away, but left all the skin from off the 
tops of their heads in his hands. 

As they flew away, Wee-sack-ka-chack 
said to them, " You and all your descend- 
ants will evermore be bald, for having 
treated me as you did in causing me to fall 
from the sky." 

And the Indians say that Wee-sack-ka- 
chack's words were fulfilled, and all the 
descendants of those two eagles have car- 
ried the unmistakable mark of his displea- 
sure; to this day none of them have any 
feathers upon their heads. 

Once upon a time, when Wee-sack-ka- 
chack was very hungry, he started out to 
find some food. As he walked along he 
came to a beautifully-situated little lake, 
in which there were a number of geese. 
Now it suddenly occurred to Wee-sack-ka- 


chack that there was nothing he desired to 
eat so much as a goose. In looking around 
for something with which to kill them he 
spied a peculiar hollow-centred reed, from 
which he could produce a strange, weird 
music which appealed to all kinds of birds 
and wild animals. 

Procuring a few of the reeds, he began 
to play upon them ; the geese had no sooner 
heard it than they waddled out upon the 
shore and came towards him. Wee-sack- 
ka-chack with his usual cunning pretended 
not to see them, but continued playing. 
Very soon he had all the geese dancing 
around him in a clumsy but rhythmic mea- 
sure. He kept up the music so long that 
the geese began to get quite tired and were 
unconsciously narrowing the circle in which 
they danced till they were actually press- 
ing up against him. With his disengaged 
hand he twisted their necks one after an- 
other as they came to him without arousing 
any suspicion among them. All shared the 
same fate. Wee-sack-ka-chack was de- 
lighted with his success, especially as none 
had escaped to tell of his work. He was 


always anxious to pose as the friend of all 
birds and beasts, and would not for worlds 
have his true character become known to 

After gathering up all the dead geese he 
carried them to a spot near-by, where he 
soon built a fire with which to cook them. 
When he had burned sufficient wood to 
make quite a heap of ashes he buried all 
the geese under them. He arranged the 
geese in such a way that though their bodies 
were completely buried, their legs and feet 
stuck out of the ashes. This was to help 
him find the birds when they were cooked. 
To hasten the process he made a good big 
fire over all the ashes, and then went for a 
walk in order to sharpen his appetite. 

As he walked along a sly old fox caught 
sight of him and said to himself, " My 
friend Wee-sack-ka-chack has a most self- 
satisfied expression this morning; he must 
have had a successful hunt. I wonder 
which of his young brothers he has 
played some trick upon to-day. " When he 
saw Wee-sack-ka-chack approaching in his 
direction he pretended to be fast asleep. 


Catching sight of the fox, Wee-sack-ka- 
chack went up to him and said, " Well, my 
young brother, you have had a good rest, 
so should be fit for a race with me to-day. 
I am feeling very well and am sure of win- 
ning. Will you run a race around that 
little lake with me?" The fox said he was 
perfectly willing to try conclusions with 
his older brother, but could not very well 
do so just then as he was suffering from the 
effects of a sore foot. Wee-sack-ka-chack, 
of course, believed all this, and offered very 
generously to handicap himself by tying a 
stone to his ankle and also giving the fox 
a few yards start of him in the race. The 
sly old fox very reluctantly consented to 
this arrangement and the race was started. 
As soon, however, as they were out of sight 
of each other the fox ran as fast as he 
could and presently came to the fire which 
Wee-sack-ka-chack had left a few minutes 
before. He at once proceeded to investi- 
gate and soon discovered what was cooking. 
He made short work of all the geese, and 
before leaving buried all the feathers and 
carefully arranged all the legs and feet of 


the geese in their former position. He then 
started off to finish the race and reached the 
starting-point long before his old friend had 
gone half the distance. He lay down to 
rest, but after his hearty meal was so 
drowsy that he very soon fell into a heavy 
slumber. Wee-sack-ka-chack at last reached 
then end of the race, and much to his sur- 
prise found the fox ahead of him and fast 
asleep. He at once became suspicious, as 
the fox was in the habit of playing just 
such tricks upon his elder brother, so he 
examined each of the fox's feet and, as he 
suspected, they showed no signs of cuts 
or bruises ; but in the kindness of his heart 
he concluded to let his young brother sleep, 
while he went on to enjoy his dinner. He 
felt sure that the geese were sufficiently 
cooked for him by that time and hurried on, 
only to find that the fox had eaten every 
one of them and had concealed the trick 
most cleverly by putting each pair of legs 
back just as he had arranged them. 

Wee-sack-ka-chack then returned to where 
he had left his unkind friend fast asleep, 
and, gathering a lot of dry grass, made a 


complete circle with it round the sleeping 
fox; then, setting fire to it, he sat down 
and watched the flames burn up. The heat 
very soon awakened the fox, who jumped up, 
hopped over the fire and got away, remark- 
ing as he went that his " older brother was 
a very good cook," which reminded poor 
old Wee-sack-ka-chack how very hungry he 
was, more especially as he had anticipated 
such a hearty meal. 

But, with his wonderful powers of en- 
durance, he started out again with a will to 
get another meal. 

He had lots to think of as he trudged 
along: of the many tricks the fox was 
always playing upon him, and of those 
played on him by the different birds and 
other animals. Then, again, he thought of 
how he had ill-treated so many of his young 
friends. He realized that he had not 
treated his friends the geese fairly himself 
that very morning, but he excused his con- 
duct by thinking of the intense hunger from 
which he had suffered, and, as he said to 
himself, they were not asked to dance, 
even if he did make such appealing music, 
13 193 


and if they had stayed in the water they 
might all have been alive now. But we 
shall see whether staying in the water 
would have saved them. 

After he had walked quite a long way 
he came to a very pretty part of the coun- 
try, hills and little inland lakes everywhere 
about him. He sat down to rest, and as he 
did so imagined he heard the splash of 
ducks or geese in some near-by lake. Pres- 
ently he heard a goose honk quite near him, 
and this was too much for poor old Wee- 
sack-ka-chack, who started out in the direc- 
tion from which the sound had come and 
soon discovered a lake in which were fully 
a dozen or more of his young friends. The 
sight of these made Wee-sack-ka-chack feel 
very hungry and reminded him of the meal 
of which the fox had deprived him. He 
sat down by the shore of the lake and began 
crying out to the geese in a most pitiful 
tone to come near him, as he wished them 
to help him out with their natural enemy 
the fox, who had treated him very badly. 
When the geese came near he asked them to 
turn him into a bird, as like themselves as 


possible. This the geese agreed to do, so 
very soon Wee-sack-ka-chack felt his body 
being covered with feathers and wings 
sprouting out at his shoulders. He tried to 
fly, and only managed to get out a few 
yards into the lake when he fell in among 
the geese. The geese warned him not to try 
flying for a few minutes longer, as his 
wings were not strong enough to carry him. 
He followed this advice and explained to 
the geese why he was so anxious to fly. He 
wished to catch up to the fox, and asked 
them to accompany him and help him get 
rid of their cunning enemy. 

After waiting for some time the geese 
told Wee-sack-ka-chack his wings were 
ready, and to lead the way, which he was 
only too glad to do. As he started off in 
a certain direction the geese told him not 
to go that way, as they had seen a wigwam 
and were afraid they might be shot by the 
occupant if they passed over or near it. 
But this was exactly what Wee-sack-ka- 
chack desired, so he kept on in the same 
course, explaining to his companions as he 
flew that the wigwam was occupied by his 


young brother, who would not touch them. 
Very soon they came in sight of the wig- 
wam, and Wee-sack-ka-chack began honking 
like a goose; this was for a signal to his 
friend in the tent, who came out at the 
sound with bow and arrow, and, taking aim, 
shot at the passing geese. Alas for Wee- 
sack-ka-chack' s calculations, instead of one 
of his companions being shot, he found to 
his horror that it was his own wing that 
the archer had found. He came tumbling 
down, and the geese immediately hurried 
away, making good their escape. As 
Wee-sack-ka-chack fell, he found himself 
at the door of the tent, without a feather 
upon his body, which surprised his friend 
very much and was also a surprise to him- 
self. He tried to explain his masquerade 
as a goose, much to the friend's amusement, 
who chaffed him upon his success and 
reminded him that he should have appeased 
his hunger as the geese did while he was 
one of them. 

But Wee-sack-ka-chack did not stay to 
hear all his friend had to say, as he was 
quite determined to get a meal for himself 


before the sun had set, so, borrowing a bow 
and arrow, he again set out. 

He travelled for some distance without 
seeing anything he could try his skill upon, 
and, becoming very tired, sat down to rest. 
As he rested he looked around and was 
struck with the excellent quality of the 
grass which grew around him, saying to 
himself that " as the deer and buffalo ate 
grass and grew fat upon it, why should 
not he have some of it?" He felt sure the 
sun would set and find him as hungry as 
when he first started out in the morning. 
Getting up, he went to a particularly green 
place and began picking up some grass with 
the intention of eating it. 

Now we know he understood all lan- 
guages and could speak with all animals, 
birds and fishes, so he also could speak with 
and understand all plants and trees. As 
he picked the grass up, he said, " My little 
friend, I am very hungry and must eat you, 
though I should much prefer some of my 
little friends who are in the habit of eating 
you." The plant answered him and said, 
" My older brother, you must not eat me. 
I am only intended for the food of your 


little friends. If you eat me you will not 
be able to kill anything with your bow 
and arrow." But Wee-sack-ka-chack only 
laughed and said, " My young friend, I must 
eat you, for I am hungry." After he had 
eaten a few blades of the grass he started 
forth again on his hunt. Presently he 
reached a beautiful valley, and to his de- 
light he saw on the opposite hill a group of 
four jumping deer. He managed to get 
quite near them and, adjusting his bow and 
arrow, took aim and shot. But alas, his 
arrow refused to go farther than a few feet 
and the sinew string of his bow made such 
a peculiar squeak that the deer were startled 
and ran over the hill and out of sight. 
Wee-sack-ka-chack was reminded of the 
threat of his little friend, and, realizing 
that he had not been satisfied in the least 
by his eating the grass, began to regret very 
much not having taken its advice and 
waited for more suitable food with which 
to appease his hunger. However, he thought 
he would try his luck once more before 
going back and apologizing. Very soon he 
came upon some more deer and again tried 


to kill one, but with the same result. He 
turned back to the spot he had taken the 
grass from for his meal, and, reaching it, 
began to implore the forgiveness of his little 
friend, and asking to have restored to him 
once more his cunning with the bow and 
arrow. He promised never again to eat 
any plant not intended for his use. The 
little friend then said, " Go, my big brother ; 
you always make us believe that you are 
wiser than any of us, but you see even wise 
men sometimes make mistakes and turn to 
the most insignificant for aid." 

Wee-sack-ka-chack soon after came upon 
the four deer he had seen earlier in the 
day, and to his joy succeeded in killing one 
and satisfying his hunger. He did not for- 
get his promise to the little plant, for he 
never allowed anyone to eat of it again. 
That is why no Indian ever eats grass. 
There are many things they learned 
through the experiences of Wee-sack-ka- 
chack, and this is one of them. 


IvM ~T 




E Paget, Amelia M 

78 The people of the plains